My 12 Rules for Life

Having recently completed Jordan Peterson’s culturally significant, 12 Rules For Life, I thought to author my own.

In addition to the rules themselves, Peterson’s book encapsulates a multitude of valuable lessons with his own personal stories, metaphors and fables. I even referenced his writing in a recent YouTube video to explain some of the unconventional adventures I’ve had and documented (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_33kBnpdzo). A passage in Peterson’s book was the best way I could find to answer the question I get from friends, which is something like, “why the hell would you do that?”

Politics always aside, Peterson’s book has a little something for pretty much everyone.

These are off-the-cuff, but have been developed by 35.5 years of mostly easy living and thinking (often overthinking). I claim no advanced expertise on the subject past my own time on Earth. I know enough to know all of these are subject to change and change back. Here are my own 12 Rules for Life as of this moment:

1. Live off less than you make–This goes for people of all socio-economic classes. Coming from someone who has been salaried throughout the range of the 5 figure to small six-figure range in no particular order, I have found my stress level will stay low if I just live within my means. I am no Dave Ramsey, but living off of less than you make does a mind good. It’s not how much you make. It’s how much you keep.

2. Treat people, including yourself, as if the only benefit you will ever derive from how you treat them is your own memory of how you treated them–Having briefly navigated the worlds of high-level business, law, a tiny bit of international finance, as well as criminal defense, I understand how it feels to be used and played. Sadly, I’ve done the playing too. The first feels shittier than the latter, but neither feel as good as treating another with dignity, compassion and sometimes even love.
Immanuel Kant lived by a rule that could supersede this one. Mark Manson recently blogged about it: https://markmanson.net/the-one-rule-for-life
“Networking” itself flies in the face of this rule, as I understand “networking” to mean “meet people in case you need something from them, in a professional sense.” Going into networking events with the opposite mindset, which is to figure out how to help everyone you meet, would adhere to this rule. This mindset, however, is shared by only the minority of people you would there. I digress. I have found that just being good to people, including yourself, for its own sake, is the optimal, long-term human relations strategy. You may not get those backstage passes from your new high-up connection in the music business, but you may be remembered for something better than just another person who asks for favors. Be good to people, including yourself. The long-term results will be better for you.

3. Don’t be a donkey–This is the one I wish I had kept in the forefront of my mind over the past 3 years. It hurts to have learned it when I did and not earlier. I even blogged about it (https://jahodge6.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/shouldiliveabroad/). You can do everything you want to do if you are willing to do one of them at a time. I went to Costa Rica, came back to disastrously re-enter the real-world and then decided to set out on my original plan, which was to go to Asia after Costa Rica. This sequence is my greatest regret to date. I could have spent all the time I needed to abroad and then come home to work again. One thing at a time. Instead, I waffled back and forth straddling the US workforce and the more attractive demographic of world travelers while living mostly at my Mom’s. If you really want more than one thing, give one thing your full effort and attention and then move on to the other when you are ready. Anything else will confuse your mind, soul, body and most of the people around you.

4. Blossoming where you are planted, but go to a better climate if you can blossom more easily there–Coming out swinging here, it’s hogwash that everyone can be all they can be in any location. Yes, if you are not fortunate enough to leave your current location when you know others are more suited for you, you should give your current zip code everything you have. It will make you resourceful and creative in a way an only child in a childless neighborhood can relate. HOWEVER, some people just belong elsewhere. That is better than ok. Relationships are based on mutuality. Relationships are our north star we should follow to measure situations against our guiding principles. If we are living in a neighborhood or city full of people whose values we cannot relate to, maybe we should move. If your values don’t work in any place or you find that you relate to ISIS or scientology better, you should reconsider your values. If you however, are a loving, productive member of society, and don’t feel life you belong, by all means, move.

5. Traveling is the key–As is the exhilarating experience of travel itself, this one is tough to put into words. Travel takes you past gaining knowledge or understanding and hypnotically ingrains a larger breadth of life experience into your soul that cannot be reversed. You can wikipedia a faraway place, read about it in history books, and then talk to people about it for 100 years, but nothing will give you the full experience of that location like going there to see, smell, taste, feel and hear it. We cannot fully quantify our experiences through words, so there is no substitute for living them. Herein lies the difference between learning about something and learning something. I prefer the latter ten times out of ten. I am certainly not the first or last person to espouse this. It reminds me of the scene in “Goodwill Hunting” when Robin Williams’ character puts punky Matt Damon’s in his place by explaining that he doesn’t know shit, because he had never left Boston (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEIQSbul9Os). The benefit of travel can be construed as one of the main themes of what Williams’ character said and is one of strongest illustrations of the point he was making. I am one of the lucky ones to have traveled, but I appreciate all of my wanderings, nonetheless. Books are good, but travel simultaneous heightens all of your senses in a way no website, book or Parts Unknown (favorite show) episode can. Even if it means driving to the next county, travel.

6. Just exercise–You don’t have to be a trainer at GloboGym or compete in the world CrossFit games, but saying, “I don’t like to exercise” is like saying, “I don’t like to eat.” As a former 3-month high school meathead, P90Xer and now yogi, I can almost definitively say, there is some form of physical activity of some duration for everyone. If you have injuries or physical limitations and cannot exercise, you have my sincere sympathy and compassion. Others should find some way to move around for at least a few minutes every day. It cleans your blood, improves your mood by decreasing cortisol and increasing other feel-good chemicals in your body and a hell of a whole lot more. I understand you may not enjoy going to a gym full of overzealous, no-necked muscleheads, but that composes 1% of the available types of exercise through one-click of a mouse. Saying you don’t like to exercise is like saying you don’t like to eat. It is in our nature. There is some form that suits everyone.

7. Love at first-sight is bullshit–Romance is one of the human-specific phenomena that makes life worth living. Without it, we may as well throw in the towel. That said, love, at first sight, is impossible. I firmly believe in “lust” or “chemistry” at first sight, both of which could morph into love, but I don’t believe you can definitively say you love another person until you have heard or seen them cry, heard and smelled their farts, gotten to know what scares them and generally accepted the most fully unmasked version of them. That’s what my current version of love is. To know all of the “bad” things about another person and still want to be with them.

8. Never judge a book by its cover, but remember you may be judged like that–Look good, feel good, do good. This one may come across as the shallowest rule on my list, but it’s quite true. Taking care of yourself so that you present an appearance of self-respect implies to others that you may be worth having respect for. As a former preppy golfer, turned workout clothes connoisseur, now to henley wearing bro, I am starting to fully appreciate the fact that if you dress well, you will feel well and give yourself a chance to do well. The Yankees wear pinstripes. Men and women wear suits to court. Tiger Woods wears red on Sunday. All of this plays into their performances. You don’t have to model Tom Ford, but give how you dress some thought and watch how Guy Ritchie explains how to wear a suit on Joe Rogan’s show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMejeTP2edI). Look good. Feel good. Do good.

9. Color in as many circles as possible–I vaguely recall an introduction to fraction exercise Mrs. Horton had us do in 2nd grade. It looked something like what is shown in the picture.
unnamed
You had to show you understood basic, single-digit fractions by looking at the number (i.e. 2/5, 1/3, 8/9, etc.) and coloring in the amount blank circles equaling the numerator in a row of circles equaling the denominator. It was far easier than I am making it sound.

Life is best looked at this way. It presents you with a finite number of blank circles, which represent various experiences. You should strive to color in as many of those circles as you can or have as many experiences as you can. Don’t get so caught up in feeling ok or making money that you end up with uncolored circles.

10. Shut it down–I used to keep my phone off from sunup to sundown on Sundays. This practice helped me grasp the truths that were present in my life on a weekly basis. There is an inverse relationship between the volume at which your intuition speaks to you and the amount of time you spend on social media. Give it a rest for as long or as short of an amount of time as you can. Any amount will make a difference. It will be there when you get back.

11. Don’t assume malice when busyness or ignorance will explain–If people don’t call you back or you lose touch with them, it is very likely because they are busy or don’t realize how much you want to keep up with them. I have been out of regular contact with married friends who have children, but it is my hope that they know we can pick up where we left off when they are ready. I understand that they probably don’t have time to catch up or don’t even know I think about them. In the off-chance that they hate me now, that is their problem and I will still remain open if they want to get together.

12. Rules are stupid–This one is my favorite. A person’s success and fulfillment have a lot to do with their own balance of audacity and humility. Audacity is no more clearly illustrated by a person being willing to break rules or norms. Humility is not doing it in a way that is disrespectful to others. I am not encouraging people to break laws (we need those) OR to even show disrespect for rules that are founded on loving thy neighbor. I am, however, saying that living by too many rules is the surest way to impede your life and keep your inner genius hidden. Rules are fucking stupid. Follow them if another could be hurt by your breaking them, but question them if that is not the case. I recently listened to Yuval Harari’s Sapiens and of the passages that stuck with me the most, one was, “biology permits, culture forbids.” You can do whatever the fuck nature will allow. Life is situational, so no rules work all of the time. Live like it.

Having combed through these you may be more informed, but you definitely have a better sense of where things stand for me. It is my greatest hope that these rules will change and move in and out of the list of the governing mandates of my life.

Advertisements

Just a Recommendation

Through this post, I hereby recommend Ray Dalio’s profound book summary animation video (link below).

Playing in the background while I write this post, the linked YouTube video herein inspired me to recommend it to the wonderful people reading this.

As background (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Dalio), Ray Dalio is firmly embedded in the conversation of the world’s most successful hedge fund investors. He is an unmistakable billionaire and doesn’t need to tell anyone that. Son of a jazz musician and homemaker, he is a first generation one-percenter. People of exhorbitant wealth tend to forget how it felt before they were wealthy. Mr. Dalio is a clear exception to that trend.

If you are like me, you enjoy regularly exercising your inspiration muscle. Dalio’s video now has an indefinite spot on my daily or weekly inspiring videos to watch list.

Hats off to him for keeping his perspective even after reaching the zenith of what is sometimes rightfully known as an uppity world.

As someone who is currently looking for the next challenge and opportunities, my strongest takeaway from watching it is finding out what my ego and blind spots are keeping me from seeing.

Enjoy!

Domestic Vagabonding and Pain

About 8 years ago, I moved to the largest metropolitan area within a half day’s drive from my hometown to get on board with a directionless start-up in hopes of making a lot of money in a short time. The start-up fell flatter than a pancake and I quit in an unprofessional fashion (not bragging) within two months. So, there I was in the big city with no job, my pickup truck and a mountain of student debt. My good friend and then landlord generously cut me a deal on rent until I found another source of income.

Over the next three months, I sat unemployed and unoccupied for hours each day applying for 1,000 jobs with little idea of whether I was qualified for them. I “networked,” started a blog that is somewhere in an internet cemetery and wondered about my life’s purpose. The latter is still part of my alone time.
After going 90 days without a job, I had to start making money again, so I set my sights on temp work. I came up empty-handed after interviewing for a barback position and then as a waiter. So, I bit the bullet and took the first job I was offered, which landed me back in my hometown. If nothing else, it got me back afloat.

If the above-described situation had happened today, I would be able to hold strong without full-time employment until I found work I liked instead of taking a job to avoid going broke and the existential vacuum that comes with having nothing to do every day.

In fact, a similar situation is happening right now. This time, however, it is far easier. After returning from living in Asia, I returned to live in my hometown and applied for jobs in the same big city I lived in in 2010. I did this for the first quarter of 2018. Unsuccessful for 3 months, I decided to make the move and figure it out when I got to the big city. With a rented sedan full of my limited belongings, I arrived at my first AirBnb.

For most of us, living in the first world requires transportation and shelter. Those are both far more temporarily available in 2018.

Full disclosure, I am holding out from buying a car by choice. I like the freedom. Thanks to Uber, Lyft and all of the ancillary ridesharing platforms, I can drive myself by renting another person’s car when I feel like it and operate without a car when I feel like it.What “ancillary ridesharing platforms?” You may ask.

Two platforms called Hyrecar (https://hyrecar.com/) and Turo (https://turo.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=gs:br:brand:root::usa:d+233125353&utm_term=root::exact+kwd-1383426951+239650268840+25200930153&gclid=EA
IaIQobChMIwsbPse_q2gIVjYbACh1lxAY2EAAYAiAAEgJ6g_D_BwE) make it possible for you to borrow someone else’s car to drive for Lyft and Uber. Because my ultimate goal is to live within walking distance from work, I have not committed to buying a car even after getting full-time work. It may be an ocassional pain in the ass for friends to give me rides, but it’s also liberating for me and I don’t experience the inevitable rises in blood pressure that go along with driving in traffic. The sharing economy in all its glory makes moving to a new city without personal transportation a no-brainer.

As for moving somewhere without signing a long-term lease, I am doing that too. My primary reason for this is that this city has world-reknowned traffic. To avoid it during the next phase of my life, I will live as close as possible to work. Since I don’t know exactly where I will be working, I have avoided signing a long-term lease. Almost all of my friends, including my previous host, are married and most have kids, so moving in with them won’t really work at this stage. So, I have opted to use AirBnB. It has been an adventure with a little pain. I am in my fourth different place since April 1st.

I have no complaints about my transient, minimalist life at this moment. I will get a place and car when the time is right. An unforeseen challenge to this lifestyle is having personal space to use as my own for the purpose of my choosing. I like to doing yoga, handstands and bodyweight HIIT workouts to start my days, which requires a little more than a yoga mat of space. I didn’t realize that a body length (I’m 5’8″) of space that is not a bed or closet is not quite enough for me. I learned this the hard way.

During one of my recent AirBnB stays, I came down from a handstand to hit my ankle on a metal bedpost which sidelined me from the rigorous exercise routine I like to keep. The shock of the pain kept me on the floor of my rented room for 3 minutes. As I laid there writhing, I thought about the risks I have taken over the past 2 years and how I ended up in this position. It was physically and emotionally painful. I needed this pain. It taught me something. Shivering, I suddenly grasped the meaning of the pain. I shouldn’t be ashamed of needing more than a bed and a place to put my bags. Perhaps getting my own place has some functionality outside of hosting friends. I indirectly caused this pain by not renting a place with enough space to fall, worry-free from a handstand. It’s not needy to want these things so I can operate at a higher level. Materialistic is the last thing I can be accused of being right now, but my pain taught me that some first world luxuries have some functionality outside of abundance for it own sake. I may not be quite finished vagabonding, but will seek living space with enough room going forward. It doesn’t make me soft. It makes me newly more practical.

Thank you pain. I will heed your advice.

My Own “Year of Yes”

download
Responding to an iBooks coupon offer, I ordered the first eBook I found somewhat intriguing, Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I haven’t finished it yet, but have read enough to want to adopt her philosophy. True to its title, Shonda Rhimes memoir is about her deciding to agree to do anything that scares her for a year.
Those not living under a rock knew much about Rhimes before reading this post. I, who does not live under a rock, only knew of her and that she had had some success on TV and maybe in movies. Before starting her book, if I had to guess what Rhimes did, I would have said she was a female comedian, which is about like calling Bo Jackson a fast runner. She has proven herself as a success in multiple facets of TV. Her production company, Shondaland, is an empire. I didn’t know about her before reading the book, but now appreciate her “Year of Yes.”
To risk spoiling the book’s ending for myself, I researched what happened FOR Rhimes as a result of her yes-based lifestyle. I hypothesized that her life became way more exciting once she chose to say yes to everything that scared her for a year. So, I did some research and immediately found a TEDTalk on the same subject of her book https://www.ted.com/talks/shonda_rhimes_my_year_of_saying_yes_to_everything/up-next. According to her talk, her “eating” led to public speaking engagements (on top of the TEDTalk); live acting; and, most significant to her, playing with her daughters on demand. She found that saying yes to playing with her kids, the better every other part of her life became. According to other sources, her “yessing” led to accepting a marriage proposal, answering questions more honestly, and more. All of these things were personal, but carried over to her professional life.
As a trained lawyer and part-time overanalyzer, I have decided to try Rhimes’ philosophy for myself. Nothing remarkable has happened quite yet, but I will be appearing as an extra on a court TV show and a major motion picture soon. That’s a start. Once I start saying yes, like Rhymes, I predict I will have a treasure trove of material to draw from to write future blog posts. So let’s see, I will start with month of yes today (April 15th) and see where this takes me. Stay tuned.

One Hour Post–Transiberian

Combing through my posts will lead you to my YouTube channel, which will then describe my time living in China. I enjoyed every good, bad and boring moment there. Since coming back, friends have used me as a travel reference for just about every adventure they can think of. I can’t imagine a more flattering compliment. In serving as a travel reference, I have learned more about China even while home.

Today, a friend told me about his desire to trek the Trans-Siberian railroad, which I knew little about.  Referencing my YouTube channel for the second time, I traveled through part of China via railway and didn’t want it to end after 12 hours of sitting in one place. Imagining doing something like this for 7 days is enticing, but I cannot state with full certainty that I would enjoy it.

After learning about the Trans-Siberian Railroad, my mind went to planning the logistics of making the trip. Specifically, I thought about what visa a US citizen would need to complete this intercontinental train ride travel from Beijing to Eastern Russia.

In short, an American would need at least two visas.

First, China’s visa process is no walk in the park. I learned this over a grueling 5-month process before heading there with my single-entry, temporary work visa. You can read about everything that goes into obtaining a Chinese work visa, but, to my recollection, you have to obtain:

  1. an invitation letter from your Chinese employer;
  2. an authenticated copy of your college diploma (confirmation that it is real), which requires sending it to the secretary of your state and then the Chinese consulate.
  3. a US passport
  4. a certified police report
  5. previous work references
  6. a certified health evaluation, which includes a blood test, a full physical (no body cavity search), and a few other examinations

The article linked above will tell you what I have left out, but it costed about $500 and took about 5 months for me to get it all together and to receive my passport back with a Chinese visa in it. In sum, legally going to China from the USA is a pain in the ass (still worth it).

Similarly, getting a visa to travel to Russia as a US citizen requires enduring a drawn out process as well. To get a legal Russia travel visa, a US citizen has to obtain:

  1. a tourist invitation
  2. a passport
  3. passport photos
  4. a completed visa application form, which, apparently requires you to list the addresses and dates of all of your expected accommodations
  5. a document showing official results of a health evaluation, which includes an official HIV certificate

All of these are necessary to obtain a Russian TRAVELERS visa. There are different requirements to get a business or student visa from the Russian consulate, but getting any Russian visa takes a lot of effort.

With all of the above in mind, traveling from the USA to China or Russia to trek the Tran-Siberian Railroad requires a considerable investment of time and effort. Would this stop me, certainly not.

As info, the Trans-Siberian Railroad runs from Beijing through the top Northeast part of China, bisects Mongolia and then goes from one end of Russia to the major, East Russian cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Look at the map if this is not clear.

Trans-Siberian-map

I am not up for the challenge of putting the thrill of taking the whole Trans-Siberian Railroad into words, but I am sure I want to find out. Technically, it includes two additional primary routes (Trans-Manchuria and the Trans-Mongolia). For purposes of this post, the Trans-Siberian Railway includes the continues path you would take by train from Moscow to Beijing.

The longest continuous railway in the world takes 8 days to cover its 5,772 mile length.  It has a non-tourism use as 30% of Russian exports moved along this line. It is, however, mostly traveled along by Russian tourists.

As in every travel adventure I’ve ever been on, the only way to really learn about traveling the Trans-Siberian Railroad is to do it yourself. There is far more that could be observed on such a trip than could be included in a blog post, but the description in this one will have to do as I am only giving myself an hour.

Given all you now know that would go into going from the USA to complete the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Russia to China, you may be wondering if a person who considers himself sane who still do it. I answer that with a resounding “HELL YES!”

 

 

Continue reading

One Hour Post–Instagram Break

Keeping the promise I made two posts ago, I will spend one hour researching, drafting, editing and posting this post. Knowing that, hopefully you can be gentle on any of the following typos or errors. I will not edit them out.

Now, for the main topic of this article:

Over the past few years, I have successfully honed some of my personal habits and will implement the changes I’ve made in my future work. One of these changes includes completely breaking from a single habit each month. The habits I chose to eliminate are usually those which are harmless in moderation, but destructive in excess. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a year, you have seen a related series of posts like this before:

During this month (March 2018), for example, I have refrained from any us of Instagram whatsoever. I cannot measure the difference not using Instagram has made in my life, but can unequivocally say that I feel better. Why do I feel better?

Research and common sense have repeatedly told us that using social media can lead to emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression. Forbes and countless other publications have reported on this in-depth. The phrase “Facebook Depression” has come about. It exists because social media can: 1. be addictive; 2. induce sadness; 3. lead us to self-comparison; 4. cause jealousy; 5. lead to delusional thinking; and 6. breed anti-social tendencies.  Further articles on the sometimes honest internet showed that Instagram has these negative effects more than any other social media platform. In fact, the article linked to the beginning of the previous sentence explains how a study showed YouTube was the only platform that did NOT increase users anxiety and depression.

What is it about Instagram that makes us feel so inadequate? It is widely accepted that people are more likely to highlight the positive events and places they are part of and omit the negative ones from Instagram posts. Other users subconciously interpret these posts as telling the whole story. Then, human nature takes over and we end up comparing our own lives to the fantasy lives shown in other Instagram users’ posts.

Omitted are pictures of people doing what they have to do (get a colonoscopy, visit dying relatives, interviewing for jobs we don’t really want, and on and on). Included are angled and filtered shots of pristine beaches, mountains and nature trails, and early-in-the-night pictures with friends. Sometimes people even post pictures of past vacations on #tbt (throwback Thursday) while working through a Tediously Boring Tuesday. Perhaps the latter should be a popularized hashtag. It could make some of us feel less alone and would be funny.

To sum up, I am largely in favor of celebrating and preserving the wonderful moments in life. We should, however, observe these moments with an understanding that these only tell part of anyone’s story and should be viewed without comparison. The latter is in our nature, but consciously remembering to do this will benefit our emotional health.

It is the end of March and I have confirmed that temporarily breaking from Instagram can do a body and soul good.

Next month, dating apps are coming off of my phone. We will see how I feel at the end of April. I will be lowering the percentage of finding Mrs. Right for 30 days, but, perhaps, I will feel better about my chances of finding her starting in May.

Tiger Woods’ Competition–Then and Now

tigers-back.jpg

Tiger Tipping his Hat in 2018

Tiger Woods’ aura is alive-and-well in the modest corner of the sports world called “golf.” Tiger’s brand is bigger than golf, but the contents of this post concerns his on-the-course performance against his competition.

His current “comeback” may be in full force, but the game is in a different place than it was during Tiger’s prime. Without having fully researched it, I opine that the collective of the current Top-5 golfers on the PGA Tour are better than they were during Tiger’s prime. Because of this, Tiger has further to climb than any previous time in his career if he is to return to dominance. For the record, I think he will win at least 3 more tournaments, but not to the degree he did in his prime. Today’s best players are too good.

Looking further into this, let’s put that assertion against some facts. For expediency, I will one significant performance related stat to see if Tiger’s current competition is stiffer than it was during his glory years. In my previous post, I promised to spend only one-hour on each post for a month, which does not allow me to research this topic as thoroughly as possible.

Tiger had at least 5 record-setting seasons and a lot of high finishes, so his prime is hard to narrow down into a single year. I will presume his winningest years were his prime, which were 1999 and 2000. In that span, he won 17 times including 4 major wins and 3 World Golf Championships.

From that period, lets look at the Top-4, non-Tiger players at the end of 1999 in the All-Around Ranking statistical category. This would be the halfway point of what I have deemed Tiger’s prime for purposes of this post.

At the end of 1999, the Top-4 statistical, non-Tiger players were: David Duval; Phil Mickelson; Vijay Singh; and Ernie Els. Their combined All-Around Ranking score (lower is better) was 999. Tiger was number 1 by a considerable margin.

In comparison, the Top-5 players did not include Tiger at the end of the last official PGA Tour season (2016-2017). So, let’s give them an advantage and look at the Top-4 players, instead of 2-5 in the All-Around Ranking score category. They were: Rickie Fowler; John Rahm; and Jordan Speight; and Hideki Matsuyama. Their combined All-Around Ranking score was 1078, which is almost 100 point higher than in either 1999 or 2000.

If this statistical category says the most about the quality of Tiger’s competition in 1999 versus last year. The top players in 1999 fared better against the rest of the Tour than the top players in 2017. This may not mean that there WERE better, but is an interesting finding that may contradict my previous conclusion.

Keeping with my promise, I spend one hour, in total, researching and drafting this post, so my conclusion may be supported by other statistics.

I still hold that Tiger’s competition is stronger now than it was when he was at the top of his career, but maybe this an other statistical conclusions proved me wrong.

The 60-Minute Post Experiment

Hola!

Your reading this illustrates a loyalty I can only aspire to. Having dreamed up a multitude of post ideas lately (not working right now), I have chosen to act on one of my ideas that will force a sense of urgency. It will make me publish posts without over-deliberating.

If you maintain a blog, you probably have lingering post drafts that you just didn’t feel good enough about to publish. I have at least a handful of these in my drafts right now.

To avoid adding to the stack of unborn posts, I will write a post every 3 days for 30 days giving myself only one hour to research, draft and publish each one. Although the quality of said posts may not match previous posts, they will, nonetheless, be published. OR maybe they will be just as good as previous posts and completing this experiment will entice me to work faster.

According to Parkinson’s law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” We’ll see.

How to Beat Loneliness Before it Beats You

702218482_16761549990029097886_preview

A picture of me and Costa Rican friends sitting on a fence on the side of a dormant volcano. I am not alone here. I just think it is cool.

My family lives in a small, idyllic town off of the Southeastern Coast of the USA. It is a well-known destination for southern elites (I mean that as a compliment) who come here to spend a few idle days before heading back to the grind of whatever they do for work in whatever larger city they live. Generally, the people who live in my hometown are retired or got married within less than 8 years of college and are adapted to the slower pace.

When between jobs, I have found myself back there with little to do and less and less people to do it with. I am not married or retired. Among the popular activities in my coastal hometown are golf, drinking, boating, riding bikes, tennis, golf and drinking. These are fun, but not perfect for someone who is confident that his next paycheck will come, but doesn’t know exactly when. And, I left my bike in San Francisco; I don’t own a boat yet; and think drinking heavily while unemployed can jeopardize potential future employment. This means I have to be creative in avoiding boredom. Consequently, I have found and developed other fulfilling hobbies, such as jiu-jitsu, but I have not figured out how to get paid to do them.

As for my friends here, their family obligations leave them with little time to fuck around with one of their few remaining bachelor friends. I must emphasize that I attribute my friends’ unavailability to their busyness, but not maliciousness, and will continue to do so until proven wrong. This phenomenon of busyness is prevalent in most places in this country among people in their mid-30s, because that seems to be the optimal age to start a family. I love my friends.

Getting to the point, the lack of suitable daily social activities and people to do them with creates a lot of alone time for me here. I, like other people need to spend about half of my time alone to feel like I am at my best. I love me some me, time.

However, too much alone time is widely known as hazardous to a person’s mental health. I just finished reading a great book in which the author explains how loneliness and disconnection are a sure path to a decrease in mental health and even depression. The author did this in more depth and with more eloquence than I am here, but, if you have been alive for long enough, you know what I am talking about. We weren’t designed to spend life in solitude.

Having experienced extended periods of solitude in my hometown, I have become more proficient at keeping my mind out of the “devil’s workshop.” It wasn’t always like this, but, through experience, I have vastly improved at being alone. Below are a few things I recommend doing to help you stay sane while you are by yourself for extended periods of time.

  1. Call People–I’m coming out of the gate with this one, because it can make or break the quality of your mindset and, in turn, mental health. Calling and staying in touch with people, even if it is just to bullshit, can do wonders for your psychey. Taking it a step further, every time I think of someone I haven’t been in contact with for some time, I write their name down and plan on reaching out to them within 24 hours. It works. Our tendency, as human beings, is to interpret other people’s inability to spend time with us as them not wanting to. This is less often the case. There is a quote that is credited to Napolean that goes, “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Replace “incompetence” with “busyness” and there you have a philosophy you can use when people can’t hang out with you. Besides, I like being around me, so other people must feel that way too. Lastly, I found it acceptable to have long phone conversations about nothing with friends who might live far away, but are available during these times. You don’t have to join a cult to diminish the sting of loneliness. Stay connected to people you know. It works. I promise.
  2. Exercise–Duh! Exercise is the antidote for a better life for innumerable reasons. Doing it regularly while alone and idle is no exception. Adding to this, sticking to a goal-based exercise program during protracted alone time is optimal. I have found meaning and purpose in the seemingly sophomoric or insignificant goal of learning to hold a handstand for longer than 30 seconds. I have found that setting small exercise related goals like this one can keep a person engaged in exercising in the first place. Additionally, keep in mind that your busy friends may have put their personal fitness under their family and financial priorities. Eventually, they will have to make room for fitness again. Being alone and uncommitted is an opportunity to invest in your physical health that other, more established professionals may not have. Take advantage of it.
  3. Learn–Balancing work and a social life often leaves little time for one’s personal learning interests. I, for one, am a language learning nerd. I thoroughly enjoy learning how to speak foreign languages whether I reach fluency or not. If you find yourself alone and still have the lingering thought that goes something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that,” you should use idle or alone time to try whatever “that” is. Either you will eventually find one or more people to share your life with OR you will die alone. In either scenario, your schedule won’t allow you to pursue things you want to learn for their own sake forever.
  4. Trust the Process–The end is nigh. Every time I have escaped periods of unemployment and the loneliness that goes with it through force, I wound up putting myself in an unsustainable work or life situation. Instead of trusting that the change will come how and when it is supposed to, I forced it only to land myself back in the static position I was in before. The change will come if you let it and it will be change that you may not have wanted, but needed. Do what you need to do to pursue available opportunities, but don’t force it.
  5. Friends and Health–Expanding on two previous points, be grateful for your friends and health.  As an unmarried, unestablished and unoccupied adult, you may feel like you have lost many things. This is sometime the case, but, typically, if you try focusing on the solid relationships and health that you still have, you may find that you still have an abundance of these. In fact, when you have nothing, the people who remain in your life are the ones worth holding on to. Just because you may be temporarily poor in career success and finances, doesn’t mean you can’t be rich in your relationships and health. List the relationships and positive aspects of your health out loud if it helps. Keep in mind that it is during such times that you have the opportunity to invest more in these areas. Don’t let it pass you by.

All in all, loneliness is difficult and unnatural. Definitive action is necessary to keep it from clouding your mood. It can, however, be tamed using just some of the above loneliness-slaying tactics. Keep well and let me know in the comments if you relate to this and have any other ideas on how to kill the loneliness monster.

 

 

 

 

 

What Living Abroad Taught Me

Ok. Ok. I fully understand that blog posts on this subject have been done before. I am not the first and certainly not the last person to write about it.

That said, it is easier for me to write about what I learned while abroad than to keep it to myself. Posts I wrote while living abroad are scattered among this blog and another one, (https://jasonoffthepath.wordpress.com/). The latter was created specifically to chronicle my time in Costa Rica.

As background, I left my post at a reputable, hometown corporate law firm in 2015 and moved to Costa Rica. Previous to that, I battled the job-loathing and loneliness that comes from being unsuited for my work and living as a single person in a town full of young married people for 3 years. Toward the end of the third year, I devised a plan to vagabond in Latin America for 4 months and then continue on to Asia for 1 year. My extended travel itinerary, however, didn’t go quite like that.

I went to Costa Rica for 7 months instead of 4, because I wanted to perfect my Spanish (no esta perfecto ahora). Then, I returned to the USA and begrudgingly job searched for 5 months until I found a “real (soul-crushing) job.” Wanderlust still close to the surface, I could only fake it in the real job for 4 months. So, after a frustrating stint as an account executive with a fortune 500 company, I reset my sights on finishing my originally planned adventure.

Months later, I boarded a plane for Hong Kong and made my way to Shenzhen, China where I would spend the next 6 months. Neither time nor money can replace my experience there.

All in all, it took me 28 months to leave my lawyer job and return home from China instead of the originally planned 16. It was all well worth it, but I was a donkey about it. I will explain the reference later.

To encapsulate everything I learned while living in foreign countries would be to trivialize it, but here are some of the things I feel are too profound to keep to myself.

  1. Being US American and speaking English equals being in the world’s 1%–In my second post on my Costa Rica blog (https://jasonoffthepath.wordpress.com/2015             /08/21/first-impressions/), I eagerly documented this understanding. It hit me like a ton of bricks right after I set foot in Costa Rica and in China for the first times. This is two-pronged: First, being from the USA comes with innumerable advantages. The least of these advantages is the standard of living. In no way is this a knock on anyone, anywhere, but to appreciate this everyday is mandatory for living happily in the USA. Second, speaking English as one’s first language is perhaps the single greatest advantage ever enjoyed by any person in the history of the human race. English is the international language of business. Training centers and English schools thrive in nearly every country in the world. In the USA, however, we do not have reciprocal training in foreign languages. Is this because we are lazy? I say “NO.” English-speaking Americans are not punished for being monolingual. English is where foreigners from different nations meet. We are as others would be in our circumstances.                                                               As an example, I regularly attended a workout class while in China. The instructor was from Brazil and most of the other attendees were Chinese. Neither party spoke English as their first language, but the class was given in English. English was the meeting point and the most commonly discernible language. Being a native English speaker is a greater advantage than almost anything else.
  2. Living abroad probably WON’T lead to career progress–This one was tough to swallow.  On one hand, I steadfastly believe that adjusting to living in a foreign country is challenging and rewarding no matter who you are.  For me, it required perseverance and adaptability that I may not have been able to gain otherwise. We are creatures of habit and habitat and are bound to get a little disoriented if moved to a strange land. Learning to survive abroad requires tenacity, stick-to-itiveness and character. These skills are valuable intangibles.         Gaining these intangible skills, however, does not necessarily translate to career advancement. I no longer expect potential employers or colleagues to see these skills as a direct indicator of future career success.  Realistically, US employers want a candidate to have direct successful experience doing the exact thing they are hiring someone to do. Do you know any companies looking to pay someone to live abroad and tell people about it? I don’t.                                     Personally, I will always treasure what I learned from living abroad and wouldn’t trade it for any amount of career success. That said, my career is not any further along than it was when I left to venture out of the USA.
  3. People don’t really give a $h!t–Taking the plunge to remain in a foreign country for an extended time is a fascinating undertaking, but don’t expect everyone you know back home to understand that.                                                         I previously completed law school, but equate going abroad as “Life School.” I learned as much about myself and the world in 13 months abroad as I did from 6 years in the working world of the USA. I wanted everyone back home to know what I found out.                                                                                           Unfortunately and fortunately, friends and family went on living their lives. People have to eat, sleep, drink and be merry whether you go to China or not. They are interested in things you can tell them about life abroad, but I would probably have had this realization one day whether I stayed in the USA permanently or not.                                                                                                               This is a commonly recognized phase of reverse culture shock, which I talked about in one of my YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0204Q1dg03s&t=9s).
  4. Good People are Everywhere–I need not delve into generalizations made about people from different cultures. Before I went to China, a friend, who was opposed to me going, told me, “the people in China suck.” He had never been to China before saying that to me.                                                                                                If you are abiding by the Golden Rule while living abroad, you will attract others who are doing the same. You may not be able to climb the social ladder as easily as you can at home, but you will find good people if you act like a good person. This means multiple things in different situations and you do need to be careful about who you involve yourself with, but, if you keep integrity and kindness at the forefront of your principles, you will be fine.   If you do the above, here is what happens.                                                                                         You will arrive wide-eyed in your new country expecting to take on all of the experiences the new place can offer you. At first, you may agree to doing exciting things with people you may not normally associate with, because you are in your new country. After spending time with these new acquaintances, you will discern whether they are good for you. If so, great! You have found some people who will comfort you while you adjust to being there. If not, you should, and hopefully will, slowly distance yourself from these new people, because your survival may depend on it. Then, you may be lonely for some time, but you will eventually find the right people.                                                     At the beginning of my time Costa Rica, for example, I was introduced to someone who seemed to like a lot of the same things I did. Additionally, he went to college in the USA and spoke perfect English. I realized, however, he was associated with some of the less polished people in town. He, for example, told me his friend pulled a gun on someone in the previous week. I quickly took this to mean he wasn’t careful about who he was friends with and that I wasn’t really interested in meeting any of his associates.                                                       So, I stopped responding to his messages and stayed lonely for a few weeks until meeting a great group of friends whom I am still close to today. They didn’t hang out with people who pulled guns on people. The point is, you can find good people if you are willing to step away from bad people.
  5. The good ones make all the difference–Doubling down on my previous point, being around good people provided me with as in-depth of a cultural experience as possible in both Costa Rica and China. Hospitality is a virtue shared by good people everywhere. Once you feel comfortable among who you associate with in a new country, you will let your guard down and allow yourself to take in everything that comes your way.                                                   In contrast, if you are concerned about the character and quality of the people you interact with, you will subconsciously put your guard up hindering your ability to fully embrace the new culture. We are the average of the five people we most associate with. This is truer when you are in a place in which you don’t know anyone.
  6. You will never fully close the door–I cannot fully grasp this, because I haven’t lived the rest of my life yet, but, so far, Costa Rica and China are still a part of my life. I hope it stays this way forever. I don’t ever want them not to be. The people I made friends with, the world knowledge I gained and everything else I got from being abroad won’t just disappear now that I am back.                                      A beautiful thing about life is that you can’t retract the boundaries of your horizons once they have been expanded. I cannot unsee, unfeel or unobserve what I experienced while abroad. This was the whole point.
  7. “Don’t be a donkey.”–I learned of this philosophy from one of my favorite podcasts. It comes from a fable in which a donkey is equally hungry and thirsty and is placed equidistant between some hay and water. The poor animal cannot decide whether it wants to eat or drink and eventually ends up dying of thirst and hunger. Here is a link to a better explanation of this fable: https://jeangalea.com/dont-be-a-donkey/                                                                   I fully confess that I was a donkey toward the end of my time in Costa Rica. Earlier in this post, I told you I originally planned on going to Asia after Costa Rica. Unfortunately, I acquiesced to what other people wanted me to do and moved back to get a real job between my Costa Rica and Asia time. I hated it, but more painful than that was that I still wanted to live in Asia while trying to get a new job in a new city.                                                                                         Instead of fully completing my travel and THEN re-entering the US working world, I went to Costa Rica for 7 months, got nervous about my career prospects, came home and wasted 5 months looking for a job I didn’t want, re-entered the working world prematurely and then quit so I could move to China for a while. As you know, I ended up getting to Asia, but wasted a lot of time and money figuring out that that was where I really wanted to be for a little while. I was a donkey.

In sum, no matter how much time and energy I spent away from home, it will prove to have been more and more worth it as time goes on. Some of the lessons I referenced in this post may be things you feel like you already know. That may be the case, but my personal understanding of them is to astronomically deeper than it would have been had I not gone abroad.

My only regret is not fully committing to living my fullest life abroad sooner, but that’s just another thing I learned from doing all of this.