Vote please

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If you are eligible to vote in your state’s primary, please do so. We’re all responsible for the governments we choose.

As a Canadian, I can’t vote. But Canada is very strongly impacted by US policies. Hence this friendly request. Thanks.

What the hell have I been up to?

Oh my. The last post I wrote here was exactly 6 months ago. That’s rather weak. Hard to believe I’ve left it alone for half a year.

But I’m 37 now, and I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that I move from passion to passion, rarely looking back. This has made for a rather bumpy ride through life. I have many scars, both literal and metaphorical. But each one tells a story, and the value of those stories is immeasurable.

So here’s the story of what’s occupied me this past half year, told concisely.

*Work.* The Blog Studio continues to happily fill my days. We’ve been doing our thing for long enough now that we have our systems down. Projects (usually) run smoothly, and I get to concentrate on IA and UI design. When I remember to, I feel proud of what I’ve built. I designed my ideal job and made it real.

*Singing and playing guitar/keyboard/harmonica.* All my life I’ve wished I could be a rock star. It’s not the glamour or money. It’s the singing and performing. To me, there is no more personal form of art than singing. Nothing makes me feel as naked. Or terrifies me quite as much. There’s also nothing quite as rewarding as fully committing to a lyric, and nailing it. I play twice a week with two groups, I practice guitar as much as possible, and am trying to learn to play harmonica and keyboards. Youtube is an amazing resource for lessons.

*Family.* I love being with my family. I have so much fun hanging with my kids. There is nothing more important to me than being the best dad I can be. I put a lot of energy into this. That energy doesn’t necessarily go into *doing*, instead it often goes into *letting*. Letting the kids be rambunctious monsters, or noise factories. It takes a lot of energy and attention to avoid snapping. But that expenditure is worth it. My kids are turning into amazing people. This may prove to be my greatest accomplishment.

*Self.* I try to spend about an hour a day on myself. Usually this doubles as walk the dog time. Currently, I’m working on accepting the moment just as it is. This is a very powerful practice; one that requires that we be able to clearly see what’s happening, and that we greet it with tenderness.

*Art.* I’ve been fooling around a lot with paint. With the help of my kids (especially the 4 year old) I’m learning to let go of representational imagery in favour of colour and texture.

So there you have it. The past six months in under 500 words!

Alert: Adding life to your years

Get out your calculator folks. It’s time to do some eye opening math.

Let’s say you sleep an average of 8 hours per night. Just how much wakeful life would you gain if you weaned yourself down to 7 hours per night?

The results are might leave you wide-eyed.

1 hour extra wakefulness times 365 days per year = 15.2 days awake

That means that in just 24 years, you will have spent an extra year awake.

Of course we all need our sleep. It’s quite amazing how much we take it for granted though. Drinking caffeine and alcohol can have significant impacts on the amount of sleep the body requires. So having that latte and that beer might be having a much greater impact than you realize.

Sleep is luxurious, and is something to be thoroughly enjoyed. But do you know the cost of that extra hour? It might be higher than you think.

What I mean by being in the moment

I’m constantly coming across the phrase “be in the moment”. I used it myself in my post what I learned in under 150 words.

But what the hell does it mean? Simply put it means experiencing a moment without the baggage of past and future.

Try this exercise – it takes all of 5 seconds:

Stop.
Breathe slowly.
Let go of your past – just for this breath.
Try to feel the air as it moves across your nose or your lips.
Breathe.
Don’t worry about the future – just for this breath.
Breathe again.

That’s it. You were in the moment. It’s really simple. Not easy, but simple. Repeat that simple exercise a couple of times per day for a week, and watch what happens.

What do I mean by "living consciously", and how can it really change the world?

Hey, good question. I’m glad you asked! Ok, so you didn’t. But this is my blog, and I can pretend all I want.

Living consciously means simply this: acting and reacting from your true inner self, not from your ego or from habit.

Easy, right? As if.

Living consciously has been my over-arching goal for a couple of years now. I didn’t call it this at first, because I wasn’t aware that it’s what I was trying to do. At first I just knew that there was too much incongruity between how I acted and how I really felt. The more I looked into that, the more I realized that much of what I did as I went through my day was a series of preset reactions to stimuli. I wasn’t really choosing what I doing. I just kind of did it, while the conscious me went along for the ride.

When I started reading up on Buddhism and other such stuff, I got totally drawn in to the concept of now. Being in the now is a way to sidestep preset reactions. If I’m in this moment, I choose how to act.

Over at 97thmonkey.com, I propose that in living consciously can change the world. Now, don’t mistake me for a mystic. I’m not suggesting that the world’s problems will magically evaporate. But I am suggesting that when we live and act consciously, our actions take on a couple of new characteristics:

  • we tend not to make as much of an impact on society and the environment
  • we tend to act with more kindness and gratitude
  • we tend to value quality over quantity

As fucked as our world is at the moment (see the recent update to the Doomsday Clock), I just can’t see us getting out of this mess with the same thinking that created it. Living consciously, I believe, may offer a gateway by which sanity can prevail. Put another way, if I’m less invested in my ego, and more invested in this moment, I’ll make decisions that lead to more good, not more bad.

So that, in the colloquial nutshell, is what I mean. Living consciously is such a simple thing to do. But don’t mistake simplicity with ease. For most of us, the length of our entire lives has been spent conditioning us to act from ego. The ego clings to control with a maniacle rage, not realizing that by releasing its control, You become richer, not poorer. Getting past your ego can be one of the most challenging tasks a person can face. But I think more and more of us are feeling compelled to do so. I’ll go into the reasons why at another time.

One reason entrepreneurs gain weight

Further to my post earlier about risk vs regret comes this thought: It’s not that entrepreneurs don’t feel or fear risk. Just that we fear regret even more. So how do we manage to live with risk? Easy: booze.

Well, that’s one method, and a relatively popular one. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed my daily alcohol intake grow from about 5 drinks per week to about 20 to 25. What with having a couple of kids, losing my old business, moving across the country, and starting over from scratch, there’s been a bit of stress. Booze has helped to make life a bit more bearable at times.

Recently though, I decided enough was enough; I was going to take a break from drinking. It took a couple of days to get over the craving I felt right around 6pm for a nice scotch. After a week, I was completely free of that need for an evening drink. I was surprised to find that I was waking up feeling more energetic and clear headed that I had in ages. My wife reported that I’d stopped snoring too – perhaps the snoring was affecting the quality of my sleep.

The big surprise though was the huge amount of weight I started to lose. I’d never really considered the caloric impact of alcohol on my diet. Sure, I know alcohol contains calories, but I never stopped to do the math. So imagine my surprise when Google told me I was consuming about 2600 calories per week in alcohol alone! That’s just three fairly small sized drinks per day folks.

What’s more, when I’m not drinking booze, I don’t eat as much. It’s much easier to walk away from a tempting morsel when you’ve got your full wits about you. I’m eating at least a hundred calories per day less now that previously. Not by any particularly difficult control of will. I’m exerting the same watch-what-I-eat effort as before. Only now it’s working.

All told, I’ve cut about 3000 calories per week from my diet, just by giving up booze. If I recall, a pound of fat contains about 3500 calories. So you can imagine the effect this is having on my body. I feel great, better than I have in a really long time.

I’m not advocating here that anyone give up alcohol. But if like me your waistline isn’t where it used to be, you may want to take a look at your drinking habits, as well as your eating habits.

So this begs the question then, if I’m not using alcohol to manage fear of risk, what am I doing? Once we’re being honest, I’ll tell you: I’m suffering a bit more than I was before. But I’m ok with that. I’ve accepted that it’s the entrepreneur’s lot. Meditation helps a whole lot, as does having a more spirit centered outlook on the world. The suffering is there, it just doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

Minimizing Regrets

Hugh Macleod recently posted a terrific list of 26 random thoughts on being an entrepreneur. It’s a great fast read, filled with Hugh’s usual mix of wit and insight.

There’s a comment on the article that really strikes a chord. A fellow named Walter Higgins writes

most people are all about minimizing risks – entrepreneurs are about minimizing regrets.

Bingo. I don’t think I’ve ever had my own attitude so wonderfully summed up. To my addled brain, life is risk. It’s un-escapable. To be paralyzed by risk is to lop a goodly portion of joy right off the top of your allotment. Personally, I’m more terrified by what might have been than by what might be. Death doesn’t scare me. Lying on my death bed wishing I’d followed a dream scares me shitless.

Maybe that’s a good indicator for one’s suitability as an entrepreneur. What’s your risk to regret ratio?

The wisdom of kids

Earlier tonight, I said to Zoe, our five year old “You ok? You look tired”

“It’s my brain,” she replied. “It keeps thinking of things I have to do.”

I loved this for two reasons. First is the obvious parallel to the “to-do” paralysis that occasionally grips me. She doesn’t know how to write yet, so I can’t teach her how to create a GTD system 😉 Soon enough though, I’ll be able to help her learn about the magic of next actions.

Far more importantly though is the separation she feels from her brain. “It keeps thinking of things I have to do”. Not “I keep thinking.”

Kids get it. Her sense of self is independent of her body and brain. It’s taken me 36 years to remember that.