Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Autumnal Equinox

I love new beginnings. I love when the media and calendars and books tell me it is time to set goals or refocus my energy. But I also love when nature does the coaxing. Mother earth has a cute way of delivering opportunities for us to start over. Each day the sun is kind enough to rise and remind us of the beauty around us. Each month the moon changes and shows us it's okay to be full and to disappear completely. And with each passing season we are reminded by the solstices and equinoxes that life changes and moves forward. The snow melts, the rains cease, and flowers return.

Today is the autumnal equinox. Day and night are nearly the same amount of time and summer is bidding us farewell. We will miss her vernal warmth and whimsy, but we know she'll be back next year. As fall has arrived many things will change. School has started, the air is cooler and each nights' twilight smells and looks different. But with all this change I'm excited. I'm excited for another season of opportunity. There are only so many Octobers in one's life, and only so many chances that we are given. Let this new season bring about greater love, bigger efforts, and more appreciation.

Maybe this November you will fall in love. Maybe this Halloween will change your life. Maybe this will be your last Thanksgiving with a loved one. So cherish what you have, and look forward to things you have never had or experienced. F.Scott Fitzgerald said that, "Life starts over again when it gets crisp in the fall." So don't wait for January 1st to make goals and start over. As the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward, you too can head in a new direction and let your light shine where there was nothing but shadows and darkness before.

And waste not your time before the harsh cold comes. Take advantage of this brief season. And hark unto the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne who said, "I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air."

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus 

Friday, September 18, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 10

Okay, this is it, I promise. This is the final portion of a ten part series on happiness. I did this as a sort of bloggy/literary experiment. I was also curious as to what I thought felicity was really all about. I thought I would finish this series a lot quicker, but it turns out it was more difficult to come up with 100 things that make you a little happier than one thinks. But I am glad I did it, and am certain that I learned a lot. Who knows if these past 10 posts have helped anyone, but if one suggestion helped one person for one moment somewhere, then it was all worth it. Here is the final piece. As with each passing post, I realized that some items are a bit redundant and others are annoyingly platitudinous, but that's okay. If you like one, or maybe several, try them out for size, and share them.

91. Don't look for shortcuts- Life allows us many ways to cheat the system, or cruise by with limited effort and calculated apathy. But the richness of life is not found in taking the easy way out or in climbing the least steep mountain. Search for ways to be efficient and economic with your time. But don't take shortcuts.

92. 10X your life- I stole this phrase from the best-selling author Grant Cardone. His book changed my life in a few wonderful days. The 10X rule is a transformational way of thinking and living that emphasizes the opportunities we have to multiply our efforts by 10 in every category of our life. It's not easy, but in increasing our efforts in our relationships, careers, finances, creative endeavors, et al, we will ultimately be happier human beings.

93. Don't watch pornography- Yep, I said it. Fewer things in this world are more addictive and destructive to our minds and lives. Unfortunately pornography is now a ubiquitous part of our lives.It is around every corner and entices all sorts of people with its appeal to fantasy and escapism. No matter the level of rationalization or secrecy, pornography will eat away at your soul and destroy your ability to correctly and fully love.

94. Don't be normal- There is no sense in being normal these days. Normal won't get you to the top, normal won't sustain happiness or success. You have to be better than the norm, you have to be more creative and weird than the norm.

95. Take massive action in your life- This nugget of wisdom is in direct conjunction with #92. And it's about success. If you spend your whole life taking little actions here and there, or worse, dreaming of big actions, nothing massive and overwhelmingly great will ever happen. You have to take massive actions to see massive results.

96. Avoid addictions of all kinds- No matter the substance, the pastime, or the misdeed, any addiction can reach a fatal level of toxicity. People think they need their morning caffeine fix, or their videogames to lower stress levels, but all they are really doing is willingly submitting themselves to slavery. We are slaves to the things we are addicted to, whether they are naughty movies, incessant exercising or Zoloft pills. But unlike real slavery, you have the choice to walk away from your masters whenever you please.

97. Read and learn about successful people- Everyone does it different, but there is no better way to be great, than to learn from the greats. Be diverse in your learning. Read about Ghandi, Steve Jobs, Mickey Mantle, Galileo, Thomas Hobbes. A writer doesn't just need to read about Hemingway and Shakespear. He can learn vital lessons from reading stories about Steffi Graf, Bill Gates, or Gianni Versace.

98. Leave places better than you found them- Maybe this just means picking up a piece of trash in a restaurant, or complimenting some stranger in the subway. But for me it also means leave people happier than when you found them. Go places with the purpose of bettering that place in some small way.

99. Decide to be happy- This doesn't mean you will be immune to sadness, anger, or depression. But like so much in life, happiness is partially a decision. Or at least decide you will try to be happy today, or this moment. No one will be happy 100% of the time, but try harder to be happy more often than you are.

100. Make the happy life- In grand summation I will leave you with a quote that is fond to me. Given to us by a man who has lived nearly 9 decades of life, Thomas S. Monson speaks eternal truth with the sentence, "Of this be sure: You don't find the happy life...You make it."

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Eleventh Day of September

I wanted to write down a few words in conjunction with the 14th anniversary of 9/11. But I had to work, and then drive two hours to visit my family. While in my hometown I was further distracted by nostalgia and the current book I was reading. But being back home reminded me of the feelings I felt that morning, a day that now marks the exact halfway point in my life. So here are a few words a few days late.

I was living with my grandparents in Richfield, UT, having just 4 weeks before moved from my life and friends in Phoenix. I was still emotionally akimbo. I was trying to be content with my new situation, but I longed for familiarity and a more certified belonging.

That morning my sisters and I arose early to get ready for school, and as usual the morning news was being watched by my Grandpa. But there was something different that cool morning, something was terribly wrong. I could tell something awful had happened before I saw the faces of adults in the room, or the contents of the television screen. I remember hushed crying and curious conversations. I saw the thick black smoke and knew that something terrifying had happened. But we had to go to school.

At school time seemed to slow down. We all remained in homeroom for what seemed like hours, glued to the small TV's affixed in the corners of the rooms. Among my peers, some of whom would become my best friends in the world, we watched reporters frantically announce that a fourth plane had crashed, United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

A few hours later I was in class and we were discussing potential political ramifications, and the fearful future of our country. As our bald teacher in his sixties opined on the consequences of the attacks, a girl suddenly and in a fit of tears and yelps realized her uncle worked in downtown Manhattan. Our teacher quickly gave her his cellphone and ushered her out of the room. She couldn't get through, and that hour-long class stretched on tortuously. She finally got word from her parents that he was fine. It seemed the whole world was in a sort of reverent panic.

Though I was 14 and interested in history and world events, it would take me a couple of years to really understand what happened that day. I recently got out the old journal page from that day. I was trying to make sense of the geopolitical side of things, writing down countries that could be guilty of this terror. One of them was written down as Palestinia. Clearly I was naive and uninformed in many ways, but I knew the world had been disrupted and changed forever.

Half a lifetime later, what can I say about this event? I have read dozens of books on terrorism and conflict in the Middle East, about foreign policy, and radical Islam. But I'm still at a loss, still in a stupor. I can't imagine what those who were more intimately involved feel. What I do know, is that moment in history brought people together. We realized the fragility of our times, and the repercussions of hate. We saw the devil incarnate that day, and we cannot forget. What I hope is that 14 years later this notion to "never forget" remains in our souls. The answers and solutions for ending worldwide terrorism are not at the door, and they are not simple or delightfully contrived. Some people are impelled to take up arms themselves, to join the forces and combat evil face to face. Others have chosen to get more involved in government. But if nothing else we can and should decide to love more, to work together more and hold on to the things we believe in. We should join hands when we can and embrace whenever possible. We should eliminate words of hate and delete any prejudice that we think is written within us. Of course we won't forget. But what have we learned?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 9

Who knows how many people have actually read all of my previous 8 posts on the matter, but here is the penultimate piece on happiness. Things have certainly twisted in ways I did not anticipate, and procuring item after item of useful counsel or suggestion has proved more difficult than I thought. But here we are. Bare with me for one more post, and I promise the subject matter will change.

81. Work harder than you think you should- No one is unfamiliar with the principle of hard work and its proven efficacy. However we are often lulled into thinking that our efforts are satisfactory and that we needn't work too hard. We erroneously think their is some ceiling or cap to success. That's hogwash. We can be famous. We can be rich. We can do whatever we want. But we have to work harder than we have ever imagined ourselves doing.

82. Remember people's names- Most people I know that don't have eidetic memories have claimed at one time or another, "I'm bad with names." I myself have said this exact line many times. Yet, when I meet an especially attractive girl I will certainly remember her name until I run into her again or can procure her profile on some social media outlet. The point is we forget people's names when we don't especially care all that much. Take a greater interest in remembering people's names. You never know when or in what circumstance you will see them again. A few year's ago I ate at a Chinese restaurant and inquired concerning our waitresses name. She said some Americanized name like Suzy in broken English. I called BS and asked what her real given name was. She told me it was Chenping. I wrote it in the notes section of my phone and years later I returned to the restaurant. When our waitress approached us I said, "Chenping, how you doing?" Her toothy grin and nervous giggle made it all worth it. "You have good memory" she said.

83. Surround yourself with doers- You don't have to run out and get new friends tomorrow, but if you want to be a happy, highly accomplished individual, you must rub shoulders with movers and shakers, with people that make you think outside the box and that motivate you to no end. Seek out creative types, people whose brains seem to operate on a different frequency than most.

84. Hold hands with someone- Maybe it is a lover, maybe it is a loving grandparent, or simply a small child. Hold hands. Holding hands is one of the most intimate things two human beings can do, it opens up a beautiful conduit of vulnerability between both persons. Don't be nervous. Grab that hand.

85. Write down your goals- I have touched on goals already, but writing them down is the most important part. If you never write them down they will crumble into forgotten and neglected bits that you can't easily put back together. Make small demotic goals, and make huge outrageous goals. But put them on paper where you can see them.

86. Familiarize yourself with other cultures- This quote by Mark Twain should suffice here, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime"

87. Identify your sadness triggers- A whole host of things can make us sad, and knowing the things that hit us hardest won't eradicate the sadness, but it will help hold them at bay. Look at your life and try to determine what your usual sources of sadness are, be it guilt, jealousy, loneliness, stress, self-esteem, or maybe some sort of combination.

88. Don't be so easily offended- This doesn't mean you shouldn't stand up for what you believe in and find important. But anytime you are offended it is your own decision. People already have their opinions, hearing some putatively offensive remark is simply understanding that something has been verbalized in front of you. It will not change your disposition and attitude unless you allow it to.

89. Laugh at yourself- Don't take your own existence so seriously that you can't laugh at yourself when you send a stupid text or when you put diesel fuel into your compact car. Getting angry at yourself will improve very little in your life. Look in the mirror, realize you aren't a machine, and giggle a bit.

90. Don't be too good for self-help- Some people see it as a sign of weakness to read self-help books or attend seminars or enlist life coaches. But we all do it in one way or another. Reading the Bible is self-help. Studying is self-help, watching inspiring YouTube videos is self-help. So don't think you are so highly developed as a human that you could not benefit from reading a self-help book, exploring new avenues of spirituality, or learning how to meditate.

Thanks for reading. Please share with someone who needs a smile or likes to read. If you have read to this point, you couldn't have hated it. So spread the joy. One more post left in the series. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 31, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 8

I originally thought I would pound out this ten part series in 20-30 days. A new post every few days right? But it turns out it was more difficult than I thought. Happiness is about so many different things, but to find things that apply to everyone has proved hard. But I have found ten more. Please share with others who are perhaps downtrodden or currently in a state of being bummed. And if you haven't had the chance, go read the first 7 segments, for we are nearing the end.

71. Quit saying "That's just the way I am."- This is a most tired excuse that people use when trying to rationalize their way of living. Maybe it's being lazy, or not understanding technology, or struggling with relationships or honesty. Maybe that's how you were. But how you currently are is a choice, and the past has no baring on the future unless you have decided that you cannot change.

72. Veer a bit from your daily habits- Some habits are good, but if you examine your days you will likely find that you do a lot of stuff out of sheer routine, and you will probably find that much of your habitual day is not conducive for change and betterment. So look at your day. Do you always sleep in? Do you always watch Netflix before bed? Do you always text people first thing in the morning? Maybe these aren't bad things, but try something new for a day. Abandon your mindless rituals for a day and see how you feel.

73. Try a full week without television (Okay maybe just a day to start with)- Maybe you are already too busy and intellectually elevated to watch TV on a regular basis. But for most people it is a regular part of each day. The fact that most people watch their TV these days on their phone, or on Netflix of Hulu does not change the fact that you are watching TV everyday. I myself love TV. I am usually ensnared in several vital TV series, and then I have my old standbys. But I am going to experiment on the benefits of a week without it. We will see if I last a full week, but I am confident I will read more, accomplish more, and probably sleep more. For me, these three things equate to greater happiness.

74. Refuse to be discouraged by your past- We all have storied pasts. Whether yours includes awful misdeeds or simply a long road of heartache, don't let it discourage you. Yesterdays have a way of haunting us. They tap us on the shoulder and remind us that we suck, or that we have made terrible mistakes. But nothing can alter the past. So smile at the notion of 20,000 tomorrows instead of frowning from misused yesterdays.

75. Don't rage text- Since people can text so fast without having to look the other person in the eye it is easy to thoughtlessly send hurtful texts that you will regret. Use the space that text provides to think of rational responses and altruistic solutions. Some people are good at biting their tongue in person, but via text message fiery darts are hurled quickly and mercilessly. So take a breath, don't worry about responding instantly. Maybe take 5. Maybe go get some groceries, and then respond with a cooler head.

76. Go for the occasional jog- At many and most times in my life I have found jogging to be an abhorrent use of my time. Who is chasing me? Who is timing me? What is the point? But I have at sundry times found that nothing clears the head better, or mixes around the endorphins better than a little yog around the neighborhood. I am not telling you to go buy expensive running shoes and snug shorts, but from time to time take in some fresh air and let your moving legs and swaying arms declutter your brain.

77. Be economic with your time- People are so stingy with their money and their material items, yet are often grossly liberal with how they spend their time. If you are at a party and aren't having fun, leave. If you are watching a movie that blows, turn it off or leave the theater. Our time is so very limited. Don't waste time because you are bored or worried about what others will think. The irreverent author Charles Bukowski said, "People are strange. They are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice."

78. Actually work on your bucket list- If you have made the first great step of creating a bucket list, good for you. But the sad reality is most people make this sort of list with little plans to cross anything off until they are retired and sipping flavorful drinks on powdery beaches. Don't wait until you are 76 and tired and have pancreatic cancer to do the things you want. Make goals and accomplish them as soon as you can. If they aren't that important, don't write them down at all.

79. Notice the happy people around you- Ugh, sometimes it is so bloody hard to be happy. But all you need do it look around you. Look at the fresh smiles unfurled on passing strangers. Appreciate loving comments and friendly reunions that you overhear. Sit back and realize that these people aren't any different from you. If they can be happy, so can you.

80. Don't frantically concern yourself with the next chapter of life- Oh it is far too easy to be bummed as a teenager because you aren't 18 yet. But oh how most adults would give several fingers to be 15 again. And the single, the single so desire to be married and in love they don't enjoy their freedom, their years of unmatched solitude. Stop waiting for your better job, your next vacation, or your next stage of life. The past will always seem woefully unattainable, and the future will seem like it can't arrive quick enough. Just enjoy your current stage. Work for the next, yes. But enjoy, and don't fret about being off your life's schedule.

As always, who knows if I am right. Who knows if any of these things will help you in any capacity. All I know is they have helped me. So if any one thing has resonated with you, let me know, and more importantly let others know by sharing this post.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 7

I'm not sure how I haven't blogged in 11 days. It feels like 3, maybe 4 days since the last segment was posted. But I guess in working and writing every day time is lost a bit. As the summer wanes I can't help but to feel a little bummed, a little rudderless. But the days are long and gorgeous, and the beauty of the fall is upon us. Once again, here are ten things that I think can contribute to your overall happiness. Give one a try, or more if you are feeling imbued with that late August ambition. As always, let me know what sparked a change in you, and share with a person who needs it.

61. Send clever and interesting texts- In an age where letters and even casual e-mails are becoming more and more obsolete, text messages have become our mode of communication between loved ones, friends, and love interests. Now everyone loves to receive a funny, well-thought out text, a text that makes you smile in public and forget that the rest of the world around you is not on pause. So if you want to get a great text, try sending one.

62. Enjoy the way the earth expresses itself- Though it is sometimes cumbersome, take time to appreciate the rain, take time to hear the thunder and witness the lightning. Feel the sun and be thankful for the beauty of the snow. No one wants to hear about how hot it is or how cold you are. Just appreciate and enjoy the water that makes things bloom and the heat that keeps other things alive.

63. Try again- This sounds like the easiest thing in the world, maybe the most obvious. But we don't do it. We ask someone out, get shot down, and never try again. We apply for a job, don't get an interview and never try again. Find what you want, search for what you missed and try again. You might fail again. But you'll never know if you don't ever try again.

64. Be a "reacher outter"- We all have people we wished we kept in better contact with. Sometimes life happens and you lose touch, or an old fight lingers in the unspoken words and the great distance. But who cares? Be the bigger person and pick up your phone. Maybe the ball is in their court. But that is but a prideful observation. Kindness and humanity is not predicated on the precise laws of taking turns. Reach out to those you miss and those you still care about, even if they should be the ones to do so.

65. Declutter your life- Maybe this means you need to delete about 3,000 e-mails. Or maybe under your bed needs some attending to. Or maybe it's more your mind; the messy corridors and dusty alleyways of your stressed out brain. Either way it is hard to progress, and hard to find inspiration when there is so much other clutter to deal with. Clean up.

66. Study yourself- Michel de Montaigne once said, "I study myself more than any other subject. That is my physics. That is my metaphysics." It is hard to improve on your life and be happier if you don't know yourself all that well. Evaluate yourself. Learn about your weaknesses, learn about the way your mind works, study your limitations and breaking points. It is the only true way to progress.

67. Improve someone else's situation- Your life might seem doleful and without direction at times, or maybe most of the time. But that doesn't mean all the focus should be on your sad situation. Look at those in your path, look at those who need a little extra help. If you can make someone else's load lighter, yours will certainly be lessened as well.

68. Be uncharacteristically confident- Just try it. Have the mindset that you can do magnificent and outlandish things. Don't think of the potential failure or the probability of rejection. Spread your plumage and know that you are awesome. Don't worry what any schmuck out there thinks. Be confident with your body, with your mind, and with yourself.

69. Try something new at restaurants- Stop ordering the same safe plate everywhere you go. How can you find a new favorite dish if you get the same assortment of food every time? Trying new things is important and it is crazy how trying new things in such a trivial place as a diner or bistro can help you try new scary things in any situation in your life.

70. Don't send nudies- Come on. You know who you are. Stop. Remember pleasure and happiness are not the same things.

Okay, another list. If you liked some things, don't horde them for yourself. Share them with a co-worker or someone who is having a blue week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 6

In my haste to finish my next book my blogging has taken a backseat at times. But I return. Happiness must be had, and it must be accounted for. Once again I will admit I am no doctor of felicity, but I know some things have worked for me. And I hope one or two of them can work for you in hours of unrest.

51. Read poetry every once and a while- You don't have to be deeply sentimental or own jaunty hats to read poetry. I myself prefer prose, but sometimes poetry can reveal things that novels and online articles cannot. If you think you don't like poetry ask yourself, do you enjoy music?

52. Be prolific- You only have one life to accomplish things, so with this limited parcel of time, why not be prolific? If you are a painter, paint every waking day. If you are a mother, work tirelessly to let your legacy of goodness carry on through your kids. You can be prolific in wherever your talents or passions fall. If you are a cobbler, a writer, a saxophonist, or a dancer cobble, write, sax, and dance your life away. Don't let distractions and laziness stop you from doing what makes you happy.

53. Sit in a hot tub with people you care about- There is something about sitting in hot water that makes people open up and share. It's like group therapy. So whether you love how you look in swimwear or not, get in a jacuzzi or visit some hot springs with people that make you smile.

54. Give people a chance- Just like books, people's insides can greatly surprise you. The hard part is getting past the exterior that can be a misleading indicator or character and compassion. Some people when you first meet them just suck. They are rude and unintelligent. They are harsh and inappropriate. But give them a chance. Just because certain people wear their flaws on their sleeve does not make them any worse than you are.

55. Be frighteningly blunt with people- This doesn't mean be hurtful. This means be open and honest with people. If someone offends you, don't scrunch your face and brew for days with angry feelings. Open your mouth and tell someone they are out of line. If you like someone, tell them. People love to hear that. Some people aren't ready for brutal honesty. But it is better than tip toeing around things your whole life. This will leave your toes very sore and disfigured.

56. Discover new music- We all have our timeless favorites that will never get old. But sometimes it is healthy and exciting to branch out and listen to bands we have never heard of. We should listen to music from various decades, from myriad genres, and from obscure locations. There is something romantic and charged about finding a new artist that we love. So scour Spotify, search through Pandora, and try new stuff.

57. Chill out in traffic- I never understood why people get so angry behind the wheel. Everyone thinks they are superb drivers, and that everyone else on the asphalt is unskilled and moronic. But we all read texts at red lights and forget to hit the gas right when it turns green. We all drive like idiots when we are late and think speeding will make up for leaving the house 20 minutes late. The truth is most of the time an idiot in front of you will not effect your time of arrival that dramatically. So chill out. Be calm, and let others merge.

58. Relax about politics already- If you happen to be an informed individual, one privately educated on the nuances of politics, kudos. We are all proud of you and your elevated state of mind and understanding of things. Just don't rant off things you heard on a talk radio or television show assuming you now are the master of state doctrine and that all others are blessed to hear your opinions. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."

59. Find time to do things that make you happy- Of course most adults that have not been endowed with an enormous inheritance have to work to provide for ourselves. So much of our lives are spent working to keep the lights on, raising children, and sleeping. But don't let a busy life stop you from making time for the little things that bring you joy. If you love acro-yoga, if you yearn for softball nights under the lights, or if you just want to do watercolor paintings, then find time. Cross-stitch, jog, read, bungee fun things. Make time.

60. Learn everyday- Part of depression and sadness comes from a life that feels stagnant, an existence of complacency. The best way to combat these feelings is to continually learn. Read, read, read. And when you are done reading, listen to podcasts. Surf Wikipedia before bed, ask people about their occupations that you never really understood. You don't have to get a PHD or read every news article on your Twitter feed, just make sure every day that you live you are learning.

Again it seems my little suggestions into the foray of happiness may appear like advice from a tired old man at the supper table. But if it works, and happiness is found, then that is a win for us all. Please share with someone that could use a reminder on how to be happier. And comment on the ones that have worked for you.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 5

We are half way through. In this and the previous four posts I have mentioned 50 things that if nothing else should contribute to your happiness a little bit. Again, this is not an obvious solution to an easy problem, nor is it a comprehensive list. Happiness can be found in road trips, Oreos, long talks, and in self-help. It can be found in the cold hours of the night, and in the fresh minutes of victory. Happiness is ubiquitous, but it is also a choice. Once again, here are some things that help me feel happier and more fulfilled as a human person.

41. Write down your ideas- People complain about forgetting their ideas, or having other people "steal" their ideas. No one stole your idea. They just had a similar idea, but acted on it. Your day is full of moments that will remind and inspire you, so pick up a pen and jot them down before these moments leave you forever like a betrayed lover. And forget not the fine words of William Thackery who said, "There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes."

42. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?-I think people are so obsessed with being right, with winning an argument, with holding the gauntlet of "I told you so" glory, that they forget how useless it is to be right if being right severed a relationship, or put a wedge between you and someone you care deeply for. Everyone would rather be correct, but realize that being right all the time will only ostracize those around you.

43. Reconnect sometimes- Some things will always remain in the past; old friendships, childhood homes, the place you had your first kiss. But sometimes ignoring the past only disrupts your future from effectively progressing. Seeing old friends, visiting avenues of yesterday can be a nostalgiac and highly cathartic thing. So, reach out to people you used to talk to every day. Visit cities that once brought you great joy, and watch a movie that reminds you of your Grandfather and his life-wielding laugh.

44. Move quickly, but stop rushing- Life is insanely busy, and this is good. It is good to have a lot on our plates with little time for idleness. A wise man in a suit once told me, "Be so busy that you don't have time to be tempted." But in all this hustle and quest for efficiency I worry about missing the big picture. I don't want to be in such a hurry to go to work that I don't notice the snow freshly painted on the mountains as I walk to my car. I don't want to be so rushed in jumping from one appointment to another that I leave a conversation that was approaching greatness. Be swift in the good race of life, but take your time, notice and appreciate.

45.  Wear skinny jeans- It's 2015.

46. Rid your life of envy- This seems like an obvious piece of advice if you want to be happy. But far too many of us waste negative energy on envying that of another, in hopelessly wishing we were more like someone else. Who cares if someone is in better shape than you, or if their car works every time they start it. Life is about you, and the people you touch. How can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people, and fretting that you aren't measuring up?

47. Be kind to people making minimum wage- Most of us at some point in our lives have had a job that pays us almost nothing and is incredibly unpleasant. Yet, when out in the public, engaging with fast food workers, and novice employees we seem to be completely bereft of patience and compassion. Take an extra minute and ask the grumpy worker at Taco Bell how their day has been. Compliment the K-Mart worker on their trendy keds. Be kind. It is so easy.

48. Find a favorite author- Find an author that makes you understand life better, one that makes you want to drive across the country to see the house they grew up in. In doing so, read everything that they have ever published. Not only is it fun, but it is a much more productive obsession than a lot of things. And if you are reading more, that is great. Everyone should read more. I recently read that the average American worker reads less than one book per year, while the average American CEO reads 60 books a year. Think about it.

49. Surround yourself with winners- If you want to win, you have to be around people that have unrealistic dreams, people that have the loftiest goals on the planet. You will not be interested in mediocrity if you are surrounded by people that are dominating their craft and winning nonstop. If you need to get new friends, do it. There is no dearth of people on this earth that are magnificent champions. Find them.

50. Realize that people trump geography- I love cool places as much if not more than the next person. I want to be where history echoes off the walls, and art from centuries past smacks me in the face. I want to go do cool stuff all the time. But far too often I hear people complaining that where they are or what they are doing isn't fun enough, or isn't that epic. To me it seems insulting to those people they are with. Worry less about what you are doing, but who you are with. I would rather be in Reno, Nevada with my best friends, then the beaches of Bali with a negative complaining sucker of fun. Do epic things, but remember, people trump geography.

Once again, be a lamb and share this with someone who might struggle to be happy. Happy can be hard. So if you are lucky enough to feel it, and feel it often, share it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 4

As I continue this foray of discovery into the world of happiness I find myself lost at moments. What really makes happiness endure? How can some people be so happy with so little effort? And how can others struggle their whole lives for a few moments of bliss? As the band Our Lady Peace said, "Happiness is not a fish you can catch." But maybe it isn't about holding the fish in your hand, maybe it is about the beautiful swim in the endless blue.

This list continues. Please comment on what makes you happy. Maybe nothing on the list really works for you, if so, what does?

31. Practice mindfulness- No matter your religious persuasion, you should take a page from the Buddhists every once and a while. Mindfulness is an important principle of observing and awareness of the things around you. It sounds overly zen and rather obvious. But I would look into it.

32. Meet odd people- Odd people are a special bunch. Their oddities range from silly hats to cult-like personalities. But spending time with people that you deem to be odd can be of great value. They bring to the table things that never cross your mind, and they remind you of the weirdness that you hide inside.

33. Take epic selfies- If you have to take selfies, (and you probably do) take them in awesome places, doing epic things. If your activities are going to be so overrun by the presence of your cellphones, you might as well seek to do cooler things that get you more likes. I am thinking less mirror selfies, and more selfies on elephants, more selfies with people you love exploring places that scare and excite you. In fact, get a selfie stick while you are at it.

34. Be more vulnerable- People are attracted to vulnerability. Let go of the ugly past and the things that have hurt you. Maybe write them down, and look not again upon their nasty memory. You deserve to be happy, and being vulnerable, and open to life and love is part of that. Being hurt sucks, but missing out on something because your doors are sealed shut is even worse.

35. Judge people less- Good luck in living a life without ever judging another person. Unfortunately it is kind of a knee-jerk reaction we have sometimes to meeting someone or hearing about another's way of life. Though we might be right in our hurtful assumptions, what good does it do? All it does is unfairly elevate ourselves, inflating our heads in the process. And an inflated melon is not the way to felicity. Take a few steps back and realize that you have no right to judge, and probably very little knowledge of what journey people are actually on.

36. Accept compliments- A good friend of mine taught me this one. Our culture has spread this false idea that compliments should be lightly refuted upon receiving. Instead of saying thank you, or reciprocating with an equally genuine retort, we often shake our heads and insist that "It was no big deal" or that "It's not that impressive." Sure humility seems to be the culprit, but insecurity is also a perpetrator. Realize that sometimes it takes great courage for someone to tell you something great about yourself. Don't negate their act of kindness with needless self-deprecation. That is no way to perpetuate happiness.

37. Screw orthodoxy- Many people are unhappy because a great portion of the world is telling them to live in a very certain way. You must do what you feel is true and wonderful, and it must be in your own way. Screw the notion that things must be done in a precise way. Break the box, destroy the mold, and be you.

38. Meditate in some form- No matter your religious loyalties or beliefs, find time to meditate. It doesn't have to be sitting down on a mat with Enya playing in the background and incense burning throughout the room. It can just be a brief walk through the woods, or a moment of solemn prayer. It could be with others or all by yourself and your favorite Spotify playlist. Just remember a cluttered mind is not a happy mind.

39. Try things that you used to make fun of- Maybe it's Tinder. Maybe it's Crossfit. Or perhaps it is snow-shoeing. Whatever it is, give it a try once. You might meet some splendid people, and you might even enjoy it. If nothing else, you will homologate your original beliefs, and you won't think twice about it again.

40. Don't think or speak in absolutes- This goes a bit hand in hand with #39. If we think or speak in such absolute and definitive tones we are really limiting ourselves. People change, and the world changes. Be open to new ideas and new ways of approaching life. If you must be firm and absolute in a few things that is okay. Be absolute in your faith, in your love, and in your drive. But don't build a dam where water should run free.

As per usual, please let me know which ones you liked, and what it is that brings you happiness. Stay tuned for the fifth segment in a few days. Cheers.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 3

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but I instead went to the movies and a wedding reception. But here it is, a continuation of the series on happiness. The real question is, what makes you happy? And what can you do to spread this noble disease?

21. Try new things- This does not mean you need to go try cocaine or do body shots off a homeless person. New experiences are great and teach us much, but some things should be left alone always and forever. But be open and willing to try new hobbies. You never know what might become a new life-long passion, or what obscure activity might bring you and another soul together. Try curling, watch a Danish film, eat something squirmy, maybe even learn how to play Bridge.

22. Serve people- It sounds like an obvious part of being a good person, but it is so easy to get caught up in your infinitesimally small world. Sylvia Plath said it best in her published collection of journals. She wrote of the rain and how it seemed to enclose her tiny world, "Closing in your pitifully small radius of activity." Young Sylvia was right. Our minuscule circle of people and activities is so limited. Look outside your world, past your immediate radius and help someone. Reach an arm across that invisible line that separates your world with the rest of humanity. And serve.

23. Look for silver linings- Life is full of disappointment and terrible folly. But what good comes from seeking out the dark matter? In awful situations try to find a parcel of goodness, or a nugget of experience. Those who seem to always be happy are looking for reasons to be happy, they aren't looking for reasons to murmur and cry.

24. Don't be a hoarder of culture- If you have discovered some great new song, or have just read a book that shifted the way you view life, why keep it to yourself? Maybe you feel cooler for having seen films no one has ever hear of, or perhaps you feel especially hipster purchasing records from bands no one has ever heard of. But this is selfish. If you are lucky enough or supremely cultured enough to enjoy certain beautiful, but rare commodities of art, share them with the people you enjoy and care about.

25. Share your goals with people- It is much easier to realize a dream if you have others pushing you and reminding you that you aren't that far off. The easiest thing to do however is keep quite. Tell no one your goals or wild aspirations, that way no one will be let down if you don't achieve them, right? Poppycock. Hold yourself accountable and share your wildest dreams with people you trust, with people that motivate you. Some will scoff, but let the scoffers scoff. A dream untold is usually a dream unrealized.

26. Take night walks- This probably isn't for everyone. If you live in a dicey neighborhood, or it is below zero outside this probably sound quite daft. But for me, in the warmer months of the year, an occasional stroll of solitude in the hushed streets of the night is quite soothing and rejuvenating for me. It clears my head, and gives me a few moments of clarity that I cannot seem to find while the sun is up and the world around me is awake and shaking.

27. Hold babies- This is self explanatory. Just do it as much as you can. It is hard to not be happy when you frequently behold innocence in its purest form.

28. Care less about celebrities- There are too many relevant relationships around you to waste time in concerning yourself with the trends and gossip of celebrities. It is one thing to study them, to find inspiration from their success, and to emulate their work ethic or innovation to their craft. But to spend precious energy on "celebrity crushes," to waste time reading asinine articles about their latest purchases or divorces does you little good.

29. Travel even if you can't afford it- If you can afford it, great. If you have a little extra pocket change, go see the world. Understand new cultures and take in new corners of the earth that were always foreign to you. But if you are strapped for cash, start small. Visit states you have never been to, or even go to nearby cities or towns that your feet have never entered. Much can be gained from discovery. Even going to an old library or new restaurant in your hometown can be a micro form of travelling. But regardless of your budget, go see what you have never seen.

30. If you have a crush, tell them- If there is a human out there that rattles your fancy and shakes your nerves, tell them. Otherwise it is just a romantic notion void of any real meaning.

Stay tuned for the fourth segment here in two days. And let me know which ones have been your favorites, or what you would add to the list.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 2

As I continue my little search for happiness I find that each day is made up of moments. Some are glorious, some are painful, and some zoom by without notice. Happiness isn't an endless wave you can ride forever. It is exhilarating and beautiful, but it will crash, it will end. But it is up to us to find further joy in the splash, in the salty water, and in the far off horizon.

The list continues....

11. Go to the airport- There is something I love about the airport. It isn't the 13 dollar sandwiches or the endless line and utter disdain for anything that could be misconstrued as terrorist toys, it's the people. There is no better place for people watching. All walks of life scuttle about with hurry in their step. Lovers say goodbye, families bid farewell, and momentous returns are witnessed. Human emotion is at its finest and most public display. Plus duh, you can magically fly through the air at rapid speeds to anywhere you want.

12. Recognize the majesty of nature- Maybe I am getting soft in my old age, but sometimes I cannot help but gaze off into the beauty of the mountain ranges that encircle the valley I live in. Sometimes life is so hectic and disruptive that it is helpful and cathartic to stop and realize the symmetry and poeticism of the earth we have been blessed to live upon.

13. Become obsessed with something(s)- Quit concerning yourself with what other people think and chase your passions, like you are a starving animal hunting the last piece of meat on the planet. It matters not what your obsession is. It does not need to be wholly altruistic or philanthropic as long as it doesn't hurt yourself or others.

14. Tell a good friend an old secret- We all have a person we tell everything to. No subject is taboo, and no confession is met with judgment. Yet there often remains corners of our souls we wish not to expose. Every once and a while it is a good idea to tell a true friend something you have never told them before. You will feel lighter, and they will feel loved for having heard it.

15. Kiss someone fiercely- Perhaps you have a significant other, or maybe just a terrible crush. Or maybe you are wandering around just hoping someone will notice you. Either way it is important and essential to your happiness to kiss and be kissed. But not just a cordial peck. A mighty, body tingling kiss is sometimes enough to send us in a tailspin of happiness. So seek those lips that change the way you think.

16. Forgive someone- We frequently forgive people in our heads. Maybe we were wronged years ago, and we decided to just get over it and move on. Or maybe someone close to us recently betrayed us. No matter the incident, it is difficult to seek out someone you are angry with and try to not only make peace, but tell them you forgive them. They were probably in the wrong. But who cares? How much more of your life will you waste in not forgetting the past?

17. Eat carbohydrates- I am just saying, don't take the diets so serious. Bread is delicious. If you need to run an extra mile to feel good about eating a sandwich then do it.

18. Write things down- There will come a sad day when things of your past are harder to remember, a day when names are unrecalled and details are blurred. There will also come a day when you are no longer here, and your memory will be suspended by what you leave behind. Are your only traces of the best scribbled in some ratty journal you had to keep for 10th grade English? If not just for yourself, write things down for those who love you and will one day wish they had just one more sentence to read about your life.

19. Stop thinking your life is a tragedy- No matter what you have been through it doesn't help to go through life with a self-constructed gray cloud over your head. Brighter days are ahead, and complaining about the past will not help.

20. Prioritize your life- Take a moment every now and then and evaluate what is truly a priority in your life. Is spending time with family as important as finishing your Netflix series? Is a promotion at work as important as seeing your son score his first touchdown? Is sleep more important than finishing a painting that you put your blood and toil into? It is easier said than done, but sometimes a step back, a moment of introspection is all that is needed.

I am trying to not simply list obvious virtues and forgettable cliches as some sort of secret recipe for happiness. But most things we have heard before, in some capacity, we just need to hear again, and maybe in a different voice. So please share with those that might need to hear a new voice. And let me know which ones you loved, and what you would add to the list.

Monday, July 13, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part I

Happiness is a curious and devilish little pursuit. It seems to come unexpectedly, and it slinks away just as we start to settle into it. Love awakens it, and love stomps on it. Experiences enhance it, and tragedy obliterates it. The truth is, there is no secret elixir. There is no certain and definitive way to be happy and remain in that felicitous state. But there are innumerable things we can do to bring happiness for just a moment, or just a day. And sometimes when life sends its typhoons and sinkholes we are desperate for even a moment of felicity. So I decided to compile a list of 100 little things that I have found make me a happier person. They won't all work for you, but if even one does then all has succeeded. As Brandon Flowers once said, "Be an advocate of joy."

I will post a list of ten things every two days. Please comment and add to the list, and share it with people who might be struggling for moments of happiness.

1. Sing in the car with the window down- This practice should be done with the music up as loud as your speakers permit. But most importantly you should try to get others around you to see and hear your vocal greatness. Let people at stoplights and lovers crossing the street know that you have a terrible voice and you are not afraid to belt it out in public. This is sure to elicit a smile or two from complete strangers, which in turn always causes inner happiness. If you are unsure of where to start, search Kelly Clarkson hits online.

2. Eat pizza by yourself while listening to indie folk music- (self-explanatory)

3. Read everyday- People talk endlessly about how they don't have time to read or that they don't have the attention span to sit down and open a book. This is hogwash. If you have time to check Instagram 45 times a day, you have time to read a few pages in a book. Reading if nothing else inspires the mind and motivates the soul. Truly intelligent people, and truly happy people read, and read a lot.

4. Give people obscure and unanticipated compliments- People hear all the time that they are looking good, or that they have good taste in music. A new outfit or a fresh haircut will surely bring in a batch of warm compliments. But look outside the elegiac box. Tell someone how cute you think their chin is. Tell someone how their handwriting reminds you of your grandmother's that passed away. When you think of something, even if it is silly, tell someone. It could make their day.

5. Savor and appreciate your food- It is easy to forget that much of the world never suffers from a "food coma." Millions of people are not even sure where their next meal will come from. And millions more have a diet so limited that eating cannot be much more than an act of life sustaining utility. So slow down. Appreciate re-fills and calories and blenders and sauces.

6. Play in water- This is easy. No one is miserable on the beach or the lake. But regardless of your geography, find a pond, a pool, or local tributary. Splash around. Remember your youth, and smile.

7. Try to understand people and things better- Too much of life is wasted in wondering why people are stupid, or complaining about things we do not understand. Take the time to understand why someone acts a certain way. Read up on things that leave you perplexed. Knowledge is power, and power is a portion of happiness.

8. Don't lay in bed depressed- It is okay to be depressed and sad. Life is hard. But don't hang on to a rope that is burning your hands. When you lay in bed at night don't think about all of your life's failures and shortcomings. Be grateful for what you have and what you are able to do. Dream. Dream of what you can accomplish. Read a good book, and fall asleep in the middle of a beautiful sentence.

9. Give your phone a rest- Every once and a while leave your phone home. Maybe even turn it off. I am not saying that going off the grid is the answer. Technology is important and vital to many people's success. But now and then take a step back and realize that your life is bigger than Instagram, and that real life conversations are invaluable.

10. Don't live for the weekends- I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of your life is lived on weekdays. You know this. But still, so many people wake up dreading the day, bemoaning the week, and only looking forward to the two or three day respite they have coming at the end of the work week. Enjoy each day, and realize that your life is made up of Mondays that will change your life and Thursdays of unbridled joy. Sure vacations, holidays, and weekends are lovely and exciting. But look forward to every day. Don't just wait for 28 percent of your life. Live the other 72 percent like it means something.

Again, some of these are obvious if not redundant platitudes. But sometimes we need reminders. Check out the next segment of things that make you a little happier on Wednesday. And let me know what impressed you, and what you would add to the list.

P.S. my chubby niece make me happy.

Want more? Check out my book here

Monday, July 6, 2015

Making a U-Turn in Your Life

U-Turns are sudden and often risky maneuvers. But we do them because we're clearly headed in the wrong direction, and instead of circling around town for an hour, we make a rapid decision to change course.

Life is no different. Too often we are headed in the wrong direction, and we know it. But we are too scared to make any sudden change. We are terrified of jerking the wheel, so we would rather mosey about hoping that our course aligns itself. But we know life isn't that easy. We don't have a GPS that will automatically recalculate and get us back to our destination in a few quick turns. Life is more complicated, sinuous and messy. So sometimes the only thing you can do to get your life back, or to change your life is to jerk the wheel, screech the tires and barrel into the traffic and chaos of life.

Maybe you have a dream that is laying dormant in your soul. It is probably something you will shoot for when life settles down. It's probably something that you will do when you have more time or more money. Maybe it is a childhood dream that has been crushed by the reality and collective cynicism of adulthood. Whatever it is, whatever form your dream takes it should be chased and followed. The sad irony of dreams is that when you are a child everyone tells you that anything is possible and that you should follow what makes you happy, but when the stark reality of adulthood hits everyone is suddenly breaking it to you that your dreams aren't realistic, that your dreams are simply dreams not realities. My response to this way of thinking that has been conditioned in us as we break from a world of toys, creativity, and endless whimsy into a life of mortgage payments, student loans, and nagging lovers, is to make a U-Turn.

If you have a dream in you, a light aching to escape through the cellar doors of your soul, then let it out. A U-Turn in life will take sacrifice and certainly difficult changes. But let's not forget why we made the U-Turn. We did it because we were fed up with the path we were on. The direction we were headed either wasn't taking us anywhere, or was taking us to someplace dark and untoward.

I know for myself and the way I function I need to take a reckless U-Turn about once a week. I am easily distracted and frequently miss my exits, but that's okay. Too much of life people waste in self-deprecation, in complaining about what they haven't done, or never will do. Too much of this precious and fading life is spent on bemoaning the fact that we are off course, instead of getting back on course, no matter how radically.

So follow your damn dreams and don't let a wrong exit, a flat tire or a "No U-Turns" sign stop you from moving forward. There is great beauty and promise out there for everyone, but we cannot be afraid.

"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall" 

~Ray Bradbury

Friday, June 19, 2015

Life Taken

A few nights ago I got a call that broke my heart. A friend of mine ended his own life. I hadn't seen him in a couple years, and honestly was never super close with him. But such a thing always jolts your universe, even if just slightly. It was 3:00 a.m. when I heard the news. I messaged a friend that was closest to him, and went for a walk. I didn't know what to think or do. I moseyed a few blocks away to an apartment complex, purchased a can of soda and sat down on a couch in the open lobby. I was as alone as a drifting piece of ice in the arctic. I didn't drink the soda. I set it down, put my hands on my face and prayed. For the first time that night tears swelled up in my eyes. But I was comforted. Suicide is a terrible and oft misunderstood thing. I couldn't wrap my head around why he did it. I could not comprehend why he didn't reach out, or how he could leave two beautiful daughters behind. But I found solace in knowing the Lord knew, and in knowing my friend was no longer suffering.

For the next couple days an unquiet  feeling persisted in my heart. I had to write something down. I grabbed my notebook, went for a drive and feverishly jotted down what was in my head. I didn't change a single word, and I am not even sure if it is a poem, if it's an homage, or if it's just an emotional journal entry, but here is what I wrote:

"We can see the top. It's distant, but there it is, visible and possible. But we also see the fall, we see the cracks in the rock and the hopeless plummet. Is there one life bereft of meaning? Is there one person undeserving of life? No matter, for life passes for better or worse. For some a swift end comes. The beats of the heart go silent, and though the rest of the world goes on, it is forever changed. No life is immune to this difference. For a life comes and changes. Death comes and it changes. A life whether given or taken, gives and takes. But oh the glory of the give, and the horror of the take."

I am saddened and confused. But I know my friend will be seen and embraced again. For this life is not the only life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


A certain thought woke me up. I imagined at the end of my life a sort of demonstration of all the prayers I had given, a physical scroll unraveled, revealing every word I ever uttered to my Creator. I saw before me the scrolls of other people, some seemed to stretch on forever in tiny print, while others had but a few lines. I wondered whose would be most interesting to read. Then I wondered if mine would elicit any real intrigue.

Were mine beautiful words sent heavenward in both times of defeat and triumph? Or were they lifeless repetitions haphazardly hurled above me with wavering consistency? My scroll was hidden, for my heart still held a beat. But I feared for the latter. I feared that when I met my maker my scroll would be inadequate for Him that saved me.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

There is Nothing Wrong With Failure

It's not a simple solution. Failure plus failure doesn't necessarily equal success. Nor does failure plus failure plus failure definitely equate to some higher plateau. So how many times do we have to fall or fail before we overcome, before we triumph? I don't think there is any certain number, nary an exact equation that will reveal when success or victory will come. And that can be outrageously frustrating.

The petulant reality is we don't know for sure if this so-called success will actually arrive. We don't know if the odds will ever be beaten. And that is okay. Life is not an exact science. We cannot measure all our suffering and sweat and somehow determine the prize that we deserve. Failure may come in waves, and it may seem more like a way of life. So how do we find solace in having our face in the dirt?

Though I am not certain that failing again and again will lead to the precise outcomes we ultimately desire, I know they are not all for nothing. Not all of us have the mental dexterity to turn dozens of failures into winning ideas like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein, but what we can do is find beautiful lessons and moments of love and clarity in the heat of our defeat. Maybe we will never be as wealthy as we want, and perhaps we will never stick to that diet like we know we should. But if our desires are important, altruistic, and rooted in passion we will find joy in the journey, and we will learn to embrace failure. Because all failure means is that we are trying. If we never fail, we aren't trying hard enough, or we aren't expanding the talents and abilities we were blessed with.

Like I said, there is not a certain amount of perspiration that will turn into results. But perspiring, opening up our lives to the attempt of things, shedding tears, loving with everything we have, these things are what success really is. So, in a painfully ironic way, failing is succeeding. The true failure is being scared to fail, and wallowing in a sad cesspool of mediocrity for the rest of our days.

If your heart is broken, let it be broke again. If you can't lose that extra weight, look for a new way to fail. If your career is not where you want it to be, take courage in knowing that many failures await you. As much as the vision and allure of success should motivate us, it is often a glass ceiling. Let failure motivate you. Failure will never really go away, so let it give you joy and push you further than you ever imagined.

"If Failure don't hurt, then failure don't work." ~Boy & Bear

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Perfect Week

Last week I attempted an impossible feat. But I think it is important to attempt the impossible. I tried to have a completely perfect week. I didn't even have in mind exactly what that would entail. But I knew I wanted an excellent seven day period full of triumphs, new friendships, unforgettable moments, with only a modicum of folly. I wanted to minimize error while maximizing joy and efficacy. I scribbled down a handful of specific goals, and thought about my basic loop of things I need to accomplish. But then I started to think more abstractly. I thought about the experience of the week in lieu of a check-list of accomplishments. I decided the first step in achieving a perfect week was in realizing that it could be perfect. I had to change my thinking. Instead of dreading the idea of waking up and going to work, I looked forward to the moment the day could start, another fresh canvas begging to be painted. Adjusting my attitude didn't change facts. Work is work, and any problems I have in my life are not vanished from existence just because I look at things differently. But the experience is wonderfully better with a slight change in perspective.

Monday started out great. I got a large amount of things done, and managed to toss in some fun. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went with even more victory. I met some wonderful people, and found tiny moments of joy that I would not have even noticed had I not been in the search of a perfect week. For a perfect week, to me, was more than making no mistakes and dominating to-do lists, it was about observing and appreciating. A perfect week can be much easier than we think.

Thursday and Friday as one could expect brought a few moments of weakness, some tarnished edges to the painting I was creating. But I quickly jumped out of the gulch I had slipped into and decided that perfection was not about endless bliss and cloud-hopping, it was about learning, about growing, and about being better.

As the week came to a close I stepped back and looked at what I had. I stared into the canvas now rich with thick and vibrant colors. It wasn't perfect, but it was beautiful, and it was something I created.

The great expert of meditation Burgs speaks so eloquently on the subject of experiencing, and observing. For these are the things that really give us happiness and open our eyes to the greatness around us. He reminds us that,

"The invitation is not to show how inventive and imaginative you are, but how much you can notice what you're already part of. And appreciate it and share it, and care about those that are around you, look out for their welfare while looking out for your own. That's it. Then you'll come to the end having had an awesome time."

He goes on to explain how most of us came to earth and in the chaos of life we forgot what was most important, and started focusing only on ourselves and our own problems.

"When you came here, you came here with a sense of awe and wonder, dying to just see what it's all about. Like, 'What would it be like to be down there, to be a part of it.' And you came here with that sense of wonder, and somehow the wonder of it wasn't enough or you stopped wondering, and started wondering about yourself, and in your wondering about yourself you forgot what you came here for, what you came to be a part of."

I guess for me, the key to this "perfect week" is not in all that YOU accomplish, but it is in seeing things like you never did before, and experiencing each day as a gift. And I hope you can realize that a perfect week does not have to start on Monday, and it doesn't have to start when you wake up. It can start this instant. And maybe you just search for the perfect day first, and move forward from there. At any rate joy and goodness create momentum that can carry you much further than you realize. A "perfect" day can turn into this "perfect" week, which over time can become a "perfect" life.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes by Neil Gaiman. This is the sort of quote you read over and over as you start your New Year's Resolutions. It pertains to the future, but I think it can be broken down to weekly and daily increments as well,

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks your'e wonderful, and don't forget to make some art--write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can and I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Next to Diamonds

A favorite refrain of mine says with a hint of melancholy, "I'm no good next to diamonds." I think we all feel like that sometimes. We feel like unpolished pebbles rubbing shoulders with the fine diamonds of the world. A dirty stone lined up next to a perfect gem can be terribly intimidating, even disheartening. How can a dusty little rock shine and make a name for itself when compared to a glistening diamond?

All of us have talents and unique abilities, idiosyncratic nuances about ourselves that distinguish us from any other human on earth. Alas, it is still difficult to feel proud of your individuality if you are constantly surrounded by people that you only see as taller, prettier, skinnier, smarter, and inexplicably cooler. Truth is, many people will have more natural gifts than us, this is the nature of genetics and the universal law of unfairness. So what is our solution? Remained bummed over our inadequacy? Seek out friends that are shorter, uglier, dumber, and less talented than us? No. The solution is twofold. First we must embrace the diamonds around us. We must realize that being next to something beautiful or skilled takes nothing away from what we offer the world. If anything it is a built-in teacher, a built-in mentor, and a built-in motivator. The second part that we are already arriving at is attitude. If we are easily discouraged in seeing others succeed there is little hope for us. Seeing others succeed and win in life should imbue us with our own source of energy to likewise dominate life. But if we do nothing but compare our lives to those around us, we will end up with the chronic thought, "I'm no good next to diamonds."

I have not been immune to this thought process myself. I have been blessed with a litany of friends that have talents and traits that I will never acquire. I have friends that are more attractive than me, and friends that are better athletes than me. I have friends exceeding expectations at every corner, and sometimes my life seems like something forgotten and left behind. I envy their skill sets and their God given talents. They are diamonds. But I don't consider myself a worthless rock of no value. I too am a diamond. I did not arrive at this conclusion years ago, rather it has been an evolution of understanding. Sure, I will never be as muscular, as well spoken, or as charismatic as some people I know, but that matters not. What I don't possess should only motivate me to create and have more of something else.

Every day I stand next to diamonds because they inspire me, they edify me, and they remind me that I too am a diamond, just of a different cut. Every diamond is different, every one found in a different corner of the earth, mined and refined in different manners.

Maybe you still don't feel like a diamond. Maybe you feel like a cheap version found in 25 cent machines. If this is the case, don't run away from the giants of society. Seek out leaders, heroes, and champions. They will not subtract from your light, but if you let them, they will only add to your glory. Do not let the goodness encircling you to detract from your own happiness. Find diamonds, and be diamonds.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Yom HaShoah- Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day

As usual I am a day late and a buck short, but the sentiment remains the same. Yom HaShoa, or the Holocaust Remembrance Day is celebrated annually from the evening of April 15 to the evening of April 16. Maybe it is a celebration that tax season is over, but in reality it is a solemn holiday of reflection and mourning. I am not Jewish, but having studied and written much pertaining to the Holocaust, and having visited Auschwitz in Poland, I feel like I too can and should take a day and remember. It just so happens that I am almost done with my second book that centers on the Holocaust. It is a not a history book, but rather a personal look into history. Many people ask me why I study the Holocaust, or rather how I could possibly be so intrigued by such an abhorrent event. Well, here is a partial answer and an excerpt from my new book. Stay tuned for release dates, and please take a moment after reading to reflect, even if for just a few seconds. 

I often get asked the following questions when I tell people I love studying the Holocaust: Doesn’t that depress you? Isn’t that sad to read about all the time? That’s kind of morbid isn’t it? The truth is there are long answers to these simplistic questions, they are answers that are heavy laden with philosophy and existentialism. Unfortunately I am not always in the mood to philosophize every time someone asks me about my hobbies.

But I can understand where these people are coming from. The majority of people, even educated people do not read historical texts as much as I do, and most people I come in contact with do not consider and ponder on the implications of certain historical contexts like I do. So I shouldn’t be offended when they ask such ignorant questions. But I am, just a little bit. To me, telling me it doesn’t make sense to study the Holocaust because it elicits depression is like saying, “why do you read your late mother’s journals, isn’t that deeply saddening?” Of course it is sad, of course it depresses the mind and soul. But is that such a terrible thing to feel sadness? One would argue that reading a journal of a loved one who had passed away was cathartic and in a way connected them with their past, and though it brought about feelings of remorse and melancholy, it was worth the experience. This is what I believe about the Holocaust. No matter the amount of sentences that break my heart and make me weep, it is worth the experience. Though it is not family history, I am not reading about perished members of my own family, every person or group I read about is part of the human family. And from this family, from this aggregate of humanity we can find the same connections, the same catharsis and the same sense of joy.

The same could be uttered about watching the news. Why view a program that just reiterates the evil of mankind, a show that shows us the depressing state of the world? Because it informs us, it teaches us, and it reminds us that there is another side to every story. For every act of hate and oppression there are stories of heroism and compassion to be found. The news is nothing but a present form of history. People are so bored with the facts of yesterday, but so enamored and intrigued by the headlines of today, and what will come tomorrow.

So we are brought back to the query. Why do I study the Holocaust? I have never been put behind bars. I have never gone days without food. I have never been bludgeoned or beaten in public. I have never been covered in lice and blood. I have never had loved ones killed. I have never felt a true hopelessness. So how can I relate? How can I look at the suffering of millions and apply it to my life? How can I learn from an experience I will never endure? The answer is quite simple. All I do to make the Holocaust relevant in my life is alter the scope, and adjust the scale. Sure I have never lain in bed at night aching from hunger and disease. But who hasn’t been hungry before? Who hasn’t felt physical, debilitating pain? Who hasn’t known someone that has suffered through, or been victim of a crippling disease?

Of course I have never been held captive behind barbed wire unable to escape. But I have felt similarly trapped. I have felt like the metaphorical escape into the woods nearby was nothing but a dangerous dream. I have felt like no matter my actions, I would remain in one tragic locale. It is not the same thing. And I am not attempting to compare my plight with those of Holocaust survivors. But when I read about someone’s mother being taken away from them in a split second, and the very next moment the father is executed, I relate. I relate because I have a mother, I have a father, and though I haven’t experienced such ineffable pain, I can imagine, I can empathize. And the second those words jump from the page to my head an immense feeling of gratitude hits me. I think about my mother’s smell, and my father’s embrace. I’m immediately thankful for the safety net they’ve provided for me my whole life, and I wonder how I would react if they were ruthlessly taken from me. As a sentence like that is punctuated I say a silent prayer of thanks that I will not ever have to lose my parents like that.

I am well aware that I have not been forced into feeling the extreme hopelessness that the Jewish people felt during the Nazi reign. But I have felt true hopelessness in fleeting moments, moments I don’t quickly admit to, in moments when I thought the darkness would never subside. Just because my lack of hope at times is so much smaller and so less intense than that of Holocaust victims does not and should not minimize my experience. In fact it only enhances that education process for me. Having been through what I only know as hard times, and what to me has felt catastrophic, I feel like I can relate to those who have suffered through unspeakable acts. Everyone has been through things that at the time seemed insurmountable, and unequivocally painful. And reading or learning about others who have been through much more doesn’t subtract from our pain, and it does not mitigate our memory. What it does do is connect us. It reminds us that everyone suffers at different times and at much different degrees, but at the end of the day, we all need a little hope, and we could all use a little more compassion. 

"Tragedy is more important than love. Out of all human events, it is tragedy alone that
brings people out of their own petty desires and into awareness of other humans'
suffering. Tragedy occurs in human lives so that we will learn to reach out and comfort
~C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Father

I can count on half a hand the number of people who have known me since I entered this world with a whimper and an unexpected breath; my mother, and my father. I guess I knew my mother a little longer since I lived in her warm womb for nine months. But that was more of an amphibious existence than anything else, a forgettable if essential part of my evolution. So from day one, and the conceiving days preceding that first day, there were two personages that loved me and knew me. I cannot tell you if my first memory was of my mother, my father, or both of them. But what I do know is that I am unaware of a world without them. But today I want to talk about my Father. 

The relationship between father and son is an odd and beautiful phenomenon. They don't really have the same background because when the journey of father and son commences only one has a past, a life to draw from. And from that starting point the son can only draw life from what he is taught and what he sees, until his background and past start to form.

I can't remember a time past or present where I didn't associate my own father with the likes of heroes. I'm sure most fathers at some point or many points feel inadequate, unprepared and ill-equipped to raise a son in this ever changing sphere of chaos and whimsy we call life. But regardless of error or folly, I saw my Dad as an undisputed hero. I look back at my early years and see nothing but joy and learning. My Dad managed to teach me things without me feeling like I was being lectured to or harangued for misconduct. 

Memories are fresh flowers on gloomy winter days. And I have been blessed with what seems like an endless aqueduct of awesome memories between father and son. I remember when I was ten years old and we both thought shaving our heads was fashionable and cool. I didn't care if kids made fun of me at school. I thought they were the idiots that weren't as fresh as me and my dad. I remember playing toss for hours in freshly cut grass, laughing at things girls would never understand. For some reason I have vivid memories of my dad removing large and painful splinters from my fingers. And it isn't the pain I remember, but the intimacy, the care. I remember unknowingly mimicking my father's mannerisms to the amusement of my mother. I remember conversations that were too hard to have, but we had them anyway. I remember crying in front of him and not feeling like any less of a man, cause he cried with me. I remember him teaching me what words meant that I used incorrectly. I remember sparks of competition between us as we played Pickle Ball or cards. 

The memories don't stop, but more importantly neither does the friendship. As you grow up I guess most people need their parents less and less. I know that is painful for parents, but the truth is it is painful for me too. But there is a necessary estrangement. You move out to college, you take yourself to the doctor's, and you make your own mistakes. But you yearn for the days when your burdens were their burdens. It was a simpler time. But thus is the process of growing up, an inevitable portion of life. But for the lucky, the relationship only grows with time. New experiences are shared, the harsh realities of adulthood are better understood, and finally the son has a substantial past to work with. Having this background, this chunk of life lived puts the father/son relationship on a whole new plateau. Maybe we don't live together anymore, and maybe we don't even talk everyday anymore, but knowing someone for 27 years is so much better than knowing someone for 10 or 15 years. You think you know everything about someone, but everyone is constantly evolving in opinions, personalities, and capacities. 

I can't wait till the day my Dad meets the girl I will marry, and I tear up at the thought of him holding my first son. Sometimes guys suck at the whole feelings thing. But I love you Dad. You are the reason I am the person I am, and I am grateful for you everyday. And I appreciate the ridiculous good looks that you gave me. Happy birthday Pop, you old bag of bones.

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  ~Umberto Eco