you snooze you lose

‘good morning to you, fair and gracious daughter’ – Shakespeare

The morning is a part of the day when we’re usually following routines and habits that have been ingrained over a long period of time.  When this occurs, we can easily just breeze through tasks, attempting to get up and go quickly.  The significance of time and place can go unrecognized, and we can set ourselves on a course that reflects that lack of investment.  I think often about ‘investing’ in ourselves as individuals.  It can be within our diet or health, experiences we have, or simply by reading.  The beginning of the day though, is such a fitting time to invest, as we can set ourselves off on a path filled with great returns. 


At the 2014 University of Texas at Austin commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven advised students to make their bed upon waking, and to do it well.  You can be proud of completing this simple task, and it can be a reflection of the work you do further on throughout your day.  Click here for the speech.  The make-your-bed advice starts at about 4:40.


I usually can’t make my bed right after waking…because Matilda and my dog Jackson are still sleeping there.  But I do appreciate the idea, and I come back a little later in the morning to complete this.  It also reveals to me that we are all very different in how we do things at home…so there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to mornings.  Some enjoy coffee while others take tea.  We can all find our own habits that lead us to a successful day, and employ them upon waking.  


Here are some ideas that have been working for me:


You Snooze You Lose – I’ve battle with the snooze button for years, and whenever I press it, I feel guilty, like I’m losing, and that I’m not supposed to be doing it.  Instead of smashing that snooze, I turn the alarm off and take a deep, cleansing, mindful breath.  It’s like a soft signal to the rest of my body that I’m going to get up now.  I also feel and think

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she’s totally snoozing!

about appreciation during that breath.  I might be considering how fortunate I am to get another day, or cherishing the fact that Matilda and I will somehow grow today, or simply smiling and coveting the first moment that is only mine…this breath is all happiness, all love.  Part of my ability to find this happiness, is the fact that I really love my mornings now.  So I’m looking forward to getting downstairs and starting with my day.  It used to be grumpiness and negativity and why so early and 10 more minutes.  It took some searching and practice to get to where I am now, but I’m actually surprised at how making a few small changes has led to such an awesome awakening.

 

 

Early Bird Gets the Worm – Wake up earlier.  It’s that simple.  This is somewhat related to not smashing the snoozer button, but it’s also about just setting an earlier wake time goal. Sleeping a little bit longer and then waking up to rush through tasks mindlessly, leaves you feeling chaotic…and success within whatever you do will be fleeting.  It’s similar to driving fast.  You’re more stressed, under more pressure, and not being mindful of all of your moves. I’m currently waking at 4:45am, and I’m working toward 4:30am.  For a while, I would sleep as long as I possible could, and hope that Matilda would also sleep late…waking when she would get up.  But I found that I could rise early, and have about an hour to just invest in myself.  I can’t stress enough how beneficial this has been.  Waking up early, and feeling that you’re up before most others can give you a sense of accomplishment, regardless of what you actually accomplish.  You’re already ahead!


The Elixir of Life – Before you go straight to the coffee pot, hydrate yourself a little.  You’re body has gone without food or water since bedtime.  Don’t immediately take in coffee, which is a diuretic. Gulp down a half glass of water or so.  Similar to the deep breath I take upon waking, I like to think of this bit of water as another signal to my body to start up again…also as a lubricant to all of the systems in the body…or a swell to the river that delivers nutrients throughout.  Then I go to the coffee.  I make and set up my coffee maker the night before, and have it brew at the same time as my alarm clock will go off.  That way, it’s one more sound to help wake me, and I can actually smell the coffee from my bedroom…which is just the best!   Sometimes between the water and coffee, I take a shot of what I call the Elixir of Life.  A tumbler glass is best for this.  Squeeze the juice from half of an organic lemon in. Add a spoon full of honey (from your zip code is best…or from your own bees!).  Then add cinnamon.  This drink has many benefits.  I’m not sure what any of those benefits are, other than the fact that it is ‘invigorating’.  By the way, when did you last do something that was truly invigorating? 


Breathe – Find some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice that works best for you.  I have a large window that faces east…and that faces a large corn field, allowing me to take in a far off horizon.  It feels great to sit on the floor near this window, with the sun on my face. Depending on the time of year, and when I actually decide to sit, I can be present during a sunrise.  It feels like the sun strengthens me for the day.  I haven’t done the research on this either, but I know some that struggle with depression can be prescribed more sun.  I think it raises levels of serotonin.  Whatever it does, it feels good.  I spend 10-15 minutes just focusing on my breath here.  I have two analogies for meditation.  One, is that it is like doing a cleanse on the mind.  It removes cancerous deposits, distractions, junk, filler, useless stuff, and allows all systems to function in harmony.  My other analogy is more techy.  Meditation is like a disc clean up and defragmentation of the mind.  That works right?  


Lead and Paper – Write in a journal.  There are many methods for this that can be helpful. I’ve been simply writing the date and then a few sentences about how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking about.  I also use it to wish happiness on someone else for the day (See a previous post here for more on this).  You never know…you might be the one I’m wishing for!  Then I write down 2 or 3 things I want to get done or focus on that day.  I took this from Leo Babauta.  He calls them M.I.T’s, or Most Important Tasks.  By connecting these M.I.T.’s to goals that you have, you’ll make sure to complete objectives along your journey.  Use a real pencil. Find some extraordinary stationary (can those two words go together?).  And just write.


Move – Run, do yoga, pushups and situps, cleans and presses, handstands, ride your bike. Find something fun that get’s your juices flowing. When training or exercising in the early morning, a great motivating factor is the feeling that you’ve completed a workout and showered before anyone is even awake.  Do it!


Cold – I’ve taken hot hot showers for almost all of my life.  From time to time, I would cool it off at the end just a bit.  This winter though, I came to love COLD showers.  I don’t mean a little cool.  I call it 9 o’clocking because my shower control is at it’s absolute coldest when it’s in the 9 o’clock position.  If you haven’t tried this…you have to.  Shower as you would regularly, but about halfway through, shift your faucet to about half cold – half hot.  This will feel pretty cold.  But that’s nothing.  When you’re all rinsed of soap and conditioner, turn your faucet to the absolute coldest setting.  Just commit to it.  You’ll thank me later.  Put your head directly under the water and start there.  Once your head is almost frozen, make sure your entire body gets sprayed with the icy stuff.  No joke, the first time I tried this, I laughed out loud uncontrollably.  After doing this?  You’ll feel like a beast, and that there is nothing you can’t do that day.  And…it will be the second invigorating thing you’ll have done before other’s have started their day!  


Try some of these and comment on your experience below!  And by the way, thanks so much for reading this far!



Music:  The band Amber Run put their instruments down for this great collaboration with the London Contemporary Voices choral group.  It’s majestic.  Click here for it!


All Love!

FinalSignature

grow up

originally published on 4/16/17

 

 

‘life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage’  – Anais Nin

 

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As the perennials start poking through the soil, and colorful birds return from a warmer place, we are re-introduced to the Spring season.  What a wonderful time of year to consider growth.  If there’s one thing that makes me feel alive…it’s growing.  And I’m thinking about two specific pieces of that:  learning and doing.  Much of how we grow is based on these two principals, and each are important in their own way.  


We are all constantly learning.  However, some of us are taking in much more than others. One can learn by simply sitting and thinking.  Actually, one can learn by simply sitting and breathing.  Sometimes the thinking can get in way of learning.  On top of that, we as individuals get to choose what we learn.  What have you chosen?  


Over this past winter, I think I learned more than in any chunk of time in my life.  By using the internet and my library card, I feel that I’ve taken a 4 month intensive course on a huge variety of topics.  Because my business is landscaping, I have a lot of time off in the winter.  I use much of this time to study some things I’m interested in.  It’s allowed me to spend a lot of time doing exactly what I want to do, and follow my passions by taking an extreme focus on my interests.  Although, I feel like a bit of a renaissance man in a sense, in that I have such a wide scope of things that intrigue me.  Years ago, it seemed like this was a hindrance in life…and that since I was interested in many different ideas, I’d lose focus on the few that I should follow.  Jack of all trades, master of none.  However, as time has gone on, a couple of threads have persisted and continue to be present in my life.  And on top of that, I feel really confident in casting webs in a bunch of other areas.  I don’t want to miss out on something incredible because I didn’t try it.  If I see something I like, I’m not afraid to dive right in.  I’m always motivated to learn about my passions and seek out information through any way possible. 


Actually, I prefer the most efficient way possible. Peter Theil (co-founder of PayPal) asks us to question our efficiency by saying, ‘How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?’  I love this idea!  It’s not that you can easily complete everything on your list that fast…but it forces you to question what the most efficient way is to your destination.  This can easily apply to things like travel, learning a musical instrument, starting a business, buying a house at the ocean, writing a book, etc.  You may have to reassess your current routines and structures in order to achieve these things.  But that can be a good thing!  In fact, I would say that 90% of us would benefit from some sort of radical change in our lives. Are you willing to be ‘radical’ and take on that risk?  Think about a part of your life that is so routine…or monotonous.  Get out of it now!


Part of what makes it difficult is that we are trained to do what everyone else is doing.  We are taught to melt ourselves down to a common denominator in order to neatly fit the mold that society has created for us.  Once we are molded, we’re put on a track.  Boys take a left, girls go right, black this way, white that way, gay over here, straight over there, religious down that ramp, agnostic up that ramp, college bound with that crew, others this way.  Last week I wrote about how we think (Click here for the post), and touched on how I’ve fallen into a ‘normal’ that just didn’t feel good, but it seemed that everyone else was mostly doing the same.  Life is waaaaaay too short for that type of thinking.  We get such a small amount of time here.  Spend it learning about the things you love!


Now, the other important piece of this is…doing.  I was discussing this with a friend the other day, and he advised to not just get caught up in the learning portion of things.  You can’t just keep watching and learning what others do.  You have to implement it into your own life!  If you’ve been meaning to start a blog but haven’t, stop reading so many others, and just get to creating your own.  Want to start your own business, and you’ve been reading and researching and watching others succeed?  Scale your idea down and start the process this week!  Been wanting to learn Spanish for the past 5 years?  Spend 10 minutes tomorrow beginning the process and creating an outline for yourself.  Don’t let anything seem daunting or intimidating.  Remember that once you decide on something…you’ll just put one foot in front of the other, and things will naturally start falling into place.  In the words of Emerson, ‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.’ 


Here is a list how I’ve grown in the past couple of years…things I’ve learned about, or done. Hopefully it will help inspire you to try something new!

  • quit job
  • started landscaping business
  • kept bees – harvested honey
  • learned guitar
  • learned singing/voice
  • learned how to keep chickens
  • learned organic vegetable gardening – created garden site
  • snowboarding – finally cleared a big jump in the terrain park (I’ve been scared to try)
  • won a bunch of men’s league basketball championships
  • took up road bicycling – competed in race
  • took down walls in house – reconfigured stairway
  • started a blog
  • started a basketball training business
  • began meditating daily – practicing mindfulness
  • learned a lot about parenting – still an amateur
  • started writing a daily journal entry
  • brought Matilda to Disney World
  • created a new website
  • started a podcast
  • began writing on Medium.com (a community of thinker, writers, readers)
  • started indoor rock climbing
  • began an ‘advanced athlete weight training’ program

Now, along with doing a lot of these things…I failed a bunch a long the way.  My bank accounts have been extremely low at times. I’ve fallen and hurt myself a bunch on snowboard jumps (only to have teenagers laugh at me).  I’ve lost some basketball games, and found injuries there too.  In my first bike race, I was destroyed by most of the other riders.  I’ve been stung by my bees!  

It’s not necessarily an easy road to follow the path that you’ve chosen, and that you’ve just learned.  In fact, it’s probably more difficult.  I’ve found that in life…the right decision is the one that’s more difficult.  The easy way is the regrettable way.  This is so true for everything from relationships to work.  So why choose the hard way?  Because it means you’re living a more passionate lifestyle, which will build your health and happiness…and that of those around you. Because it’s a life that you’ll want to tell your kids about. Because it’s different, and it’s what probably about 1% of people do. Because it’s fun!

If you need a couple ‘doers’ for inspiration…check out Tim Ferriss and/or Casey Neistat. These guys get cool stuff done, and are very inspiring to listen to or watch.

What is your potential in all of the areas of life?  Are you learning about and doing the things you want to do?

I’m not living to my full potential in many areas.  However, I try to be fully aware of that…and work hard to close the gaps.  

I have a long list of things I want to try, places I want to go, and ways I want to grow.  And as I check one off, I notice a few more have been added to my list.  

Good luck with your list, and I wish you the best!  Share your experience here if you’d like.

Music: In lieu of the brothers in the band Dawes, that I recommended on the last post…another pair of brothers that know how to play are The Avett Brothers.  Check them out here!   

   

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tell me a story

‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare

 

What kind of story are you telling?  What type of narrative streams through you?  We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through.  And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see.  Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.

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The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself.  When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts?  Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts?  “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night.  In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought.  You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day.  If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?   

For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful.  I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things.  I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?  


My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day.  I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me.  And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day.  Writing this sounds depressing.  But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’.  I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control.  I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.   


I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone.  For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear.  Tony Robbins talks a lot about these.  The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car.  Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy!  I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us.  Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________  think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term.  Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’.  ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’  Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told.  Ultimately, the tale is up to you.  


I used to drive like an idiot.  It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose.  I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible.  It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late.  These days I drive slow.  I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush.  And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never.  It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them.  A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts.  And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.  


Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch.  And it can take a lot of practice.  A lot of changing habits.  And a bunch of self-reflection.  You may not love what you see!  But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.      

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There are many ways to start drafting that story.  One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation.  Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad.  And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.  

How to we start though, and how do we practice often?  Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for.  2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate.  Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed.  3. Wish happiness on others.  Simply choose a person.  This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by.  Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today.  Do that for 3 people every day.  4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them.  Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something.  If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them!  These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute.  And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.  

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Movie:  Stranger than Fiction.  Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role.  He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post!  I have the movie if you want to borrow it.  And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries!  Joking…unless you have some. 


Music:  Gregory Alan Isakov. Soft acoustic. California. Song Writing. Emotions. Click here to listen…and love it.