“When we realize the shortness of life, we begin to see the importance of making every moment count” -Dillon Burroughs

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Couple of days back, I started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. I realize I’m probably one of the last people on earth to see the ratings giant but I found one character fascinating.

Walter White.

Walt has an ordinary life. He works in a job below his pay scale and ability, has a social life that stinks, and spends most weekends at work or in the shopping mall. It’s a safe, steady life but one full of monotony and boredom.

When Walt finds out he’s dying, he jumps into action to change the course of his life and focus on what really needs to be done. Sure, he makes a bad decision there, but the point is that he re-evaluates his life and figures out what his priorities are once he gets the bad news.

Walt’s predicament led me to re-think my views about death and the way I am  living out my life. I revisited some of my posts here wherein I stressed on the importance of acting with urgency in terms of living out our life. Death comes to us all sooner or later but why do we always wait for bad news before we launch into action?

Maybe because most of us live a life just like Walt’s.

We work our butts off and we hang out at the mall. We watch too much TV and we skip exercise in favor of the bag of chips or bowl of ice cream. We know we could do better but the day-to-day has a habit of getting in the way. We’ll change our routine tomorrow, research a new career next week and look for greater meaning in our lives once (insert any trivial activity that you presume all important to do first).

There’s no ultimatum. No deadline. No pressure. So we plod through life accepting the status quo even though, silently, we’re craving for more.

But what if, like Walt, we had a limited time left on this earth. Would we re-evaluate the things of importance to us? If we knew this was it, that our days were numbered, would we take back the control and fight for more?

Of course we would.

We’d write that book, complete that course, travel around the world and maybe even discover an exciting new lifestyle abroad.

Or we’d add greater meaning to our lives in other, less extreme, ways. Perhaps we’d say “no” not as much, be kinder to ourselves and to others, embrace what we love in life, and focus on the people and things that matter most.

We’d look at our lives — the lengthy commute to work, the long periods away from home, the corporate crap with its unrelenting hours, the way we define success — and we’d say “not interested,” “no, thank you,” and “no more.”

We’d strive for more, push harder, look deeper. We wouldn’t accept the way things are so we’d adjust the edges, widen the boundaries and search for greater meaning and fulfilment, knowing that our time on this earth was limited.

But our time is limited and it is finite so shouldn’t we live life like this all the time?

Oftentimes fear is the culprit. Fear of the unknown. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of change.

We already live in uncertain times — politically, economically and socially — so we cling on to any semblance of order and control in our lives. We work hard to provide for our families and find ourselves caught up in the daily work grind.

Many people although recognizing the need for change and receiving that needed “kick at the bum” still see the idea of change terrifying and paralyzing. So much so that they chose the easy option and the path of less resistance. They opted to stay stuck in the status quo.

We all wait to the last minute to act. People just do.

I mean, when was the last time you turned in an essay four weeks early or finished that company report months ahead of schedule? Rather than leave it so late, it has to be better to get on with things before our time is up.

We’re not all going to climb Everest or swim the English Channel or sail the World’s oceans but what’s wrong with making a few small changes along the way? A tweak here, an adjustment there, because small changes can still have a big impact on the quality of our lives.

So we need to start living life on our terms and identify what’s important versus what doesn’t actually matter. Consider that our time on this planet is finite and start to live our lives with the kind of haste that normally follows bad news.

What will you do differently? What legacy do you choose to leave?

Photo credits: Google photos

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

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My lovely wife loves to travel. When speaking of planning for a leisure or adventure trip or visiting other places, my wife seem to speak in her most sweet and endearing tone as if lulling me to comply as Odysseus did through the hypnotic singing of the Sirens in Homer’s  “The Odyssey”. She always gets her way through that. She usually did it of course by planning everything down to the least detail before presenting it to me just as a great sales specialist presents her product to a client haha. In fact as I was writing this post, I know that she’s up to something again and I wonder where to this time 🙂 Although she’s giving out hints, but nothing solid and final as of the moment.

I admit that her love for travelling has endeared me to love the idea of it as well. It reinforces the desire in my heart to see places, meet other people and experience  other cultures outside my hometown. On one of my post here, Invest in Life. Invest in Experiences!, I wrote about the value of investing in priceless experiences in life that makes us (truly) happy at the end of day.

Most people place greater value on material or financial gains, but travel can change you in ways that those things never can. On my part, travel gives me things that the newest phone (or any gadget) never will.

Whether you take a beach vacation, explore museums, etc., travel changes you. Travel makes you different. Strong. Independent. Capable. Flexible. Confident.

But the most important thing that travel has done for me is that it taught me how to be open. Travel has opened my eyes to things I never would have seen if I had never left the comforts of my home. Travel has opened my mind to ideas I never would have considered if I had only ever met other people. Travel has opened my heart and my world.

Travel has taught me to be open to breaking from the norm, to be open to doing things differently from the way other people do them. You don’t have to go where everyone else is going. Your vacation doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s. This world is so big. You can go anywhere you want and do anything you want. I think that is a beautiful thought.

Travel has taught me to be open to changing my mind.

When you’re on vacation, you can do anything you want. Just because you planned to do something one day, that doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do. Every day is a new adventure and sometimes, the best days are ones that aren’t planned at all. I’ll never forget the spontaneous trips around neighboring towns my wife and I took during weekends.

Travel has taught me how to be open to possibilities.

When you are planning a vacation, literally anything is possible. Why not break away from what you’re used to and try something new? The internet is filled with ideas. The possibilities are endless when you’re traveling and in your life.

When you’re traveling, you immerse yourself in a new culture. If you take the time to pay attention and open yourself up, you can learn so much from people who are different from you.

And to me, that is what makes travel such a worthwhile, lifelong endeavor. You never know how a trip will change you. You never know how a new place will open you up to something you never, ever, could have thought of before. You never know how a trip will challenge you. Because most people have that fear to veer away from what they’ve always known, what they’ve always done, or what they were expected to do.

My travels have taught me that I’m more resourceful than I ever knew, that the best days are the days where you are completely spontaneous, and that it’s okay — even good — to change your mind about things.

So when things don’t go the way I (or we) planned, I know I can come up with a different solution. When my wife and I realized that we wanted to completely change some elements to our life plan, we knew that it was okay to change our minds. 

We still have a lot to learn and a lot of places to go. But I think that we’re better for our travels and we will keep pursuing them. It’s true what they say – travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.

 

Photo credits: Google photos

 

The “Lost Connection”

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I am an inveterate people watcher, and lately, I have witnessed something that profoundly troubles me. WE CAN’T SEEM TO KEEP OUR FACES OUT OF OUR SMARTPHONES FOR EVEN A MINUTE OR TWO. Some people call it an addiction. Others call it an obsession.

For example, how many times have you seen someone pat their pocket and smile, having been reassured that their phone was still safely nestled close at hand? How often have you experienced “phantom pocket vibrations” where you felt a tingling near your pocket area—or wherever you keep your phone—only to discover that rather than the alert or notification you “thought” you just received what you felt was just some neurons near the surface of your skin randomly firing? A few years ago I would have just reached down and scratched that itch. Now I am supremely disappointed that it is only an itch.

Going anywhere for a vacation, walking around tourists-frequented spots,  I could not find one person who was not gazing into a phone, even those who were traveling with others. My friends around the world tell me that they see the same behaviors. The other day at a  party I watched a young woman dining with her supervisor pick up her phone while he was talking and check her Facebook. And the more interesting part is that he kept on talking to her and didn’t seem slighted at all. 

Last summer, my wife and I, took a road trip with some friends and visited some of the most beautiful scenery around the area traversing four top class tourists spots along the way. One instance we hiked all the way up to a magnificent mountain peak  only to find that since there was a cell connection up there nearly every hiker was looking down rather than out at the magnificent vista. And those who were looking were busily snapping pictures instead of simply looking and experiencing the magnificent views. I doubt whether they can have the same experience of nature through that small lens. Will those who were taking videos get the same enjoyment by reliving the views rather than experiencing them? Will they even watch those videos again?

Another interesting and somewhat troubling observation is that many young people, and a lot of older ones too, carry their phone in their hand. I often ask them why and the answer is always the same: “So, I know immediately when I get a text or an email or someone posts on social media.” I guess taking a second or two to take that phone out of a pocket or purse is not soon enough in our tech-rich world.

And I find it amusing (and somewhat disconcerting) that people even make excuses to escape whoever they are supposed to be spending time with so that they can check in with other people who may not even be real-life friends. Sometimes when my wife and I go out to dinner with friends (or other acquaintances) I am bewildered at how many people put their phone on the table and if it vibrates they interrupt whatever is going on to tap a few keys and return to the conversation often asking, “What did I miss?” Some people call this FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—but by choosing to not miss out on their virtual social world they are missing out on their real social world right in front of their face.

It is sad that this technology which was supposed to connect people is (actually) making them disconnect from each other in person.

I am still a believer in the major benefits technology brings to our world but I sincerely hope that what we are seeing is just another pendulum swing where we become so excited about something new that we want to use it obsessively and as time passes we become less captivated and use it less often until the next new thing comes into our world and the pendulum swings again. But the observer in me shakes his head and wonders whether the pendulum has reached its apex yet and, if not, what that will do to our relationship with the world and the “real” people who inhabit it. I remain optimistic.

Photo credits: Google photos

Perseverance makes a difference!

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If I had to pick one trait that is key to achieving nearly anything in life it is this. Perseverance. That’s it. It’s the one thing that sets achievers apart from those who complain that they aren’t reaching their dreams.

Perseverance is about doing what you set out to do, day in day out. Even when it gets boring, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it seems like you’re on a road to nowhere.

I’d love to say that being better than average, super talented or gifted will ensure success. But none of that is true. Once you establish your big picture goals, whether it’s writing and publishing a book, making your blog successful and/or profitable, getting paid to post photos on Instagram, or buying a house for that matter, you need to persevere in the face of difficulty and boredom. And that’s where most people trip up.

Say you want to write a book. And you start it. And by the second week or even the second month of writing every day, you hit a wall. You’re uninspired. You’re tired. You stop. But the book won’t write itself. You need to keep on going. If you don’t persevere, you won’t meet your goal. Then you will complain that writing a book is hard. Well, sure. It is. But if you really want to do it, there is no other way around it than to keep on going. This is one lesson I’m trying impose to myself lately.

Or maybe you want to excel at social media. You want to make money as an online influencer. You open a Twitter account, set up your Facebook page and start your Instagram feed. You post a few times and then a month or two later, you give up, because “it’s not working out.” Brands aren´t filling your inbox with lucrative proposals to work together.

Let’s take blogging as an example — to work for you, you have to work at it. You need to persevere. You must be consistent over time, whatever that looks for you. If you need to publish posts once or twice every day, or once every week or month, to keep the juices flowing, that´s what you do. Day in, day out. Whether you are being paid for it or not. Whether you feel it´s moving you forward or not. Until you produce content consistently for a while (maybe months, maybe a couple of years), you aren’t going to know for sure whether you’re on the right track.

It suffice to say also that there is nothing wrong with trying out different things before you find out what you really want to dedicate your time and efforts to. But throwing in the towel before giving yourself a real chance to succeed, is cheating yourself. Don’t do it.

Stick it out. Keep on going. Post it somewhere you can see it daily: “Perseverance.” It’s a small word that makes a huge difference.

If, after persevering, you eventually decide to quit, then it’s a choice based on facts and feelings, not something that simply happens to you. Give yourself the chance to make that choice.

Stop Trying, Just Be

 

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Have you ever seen someone try to dance ballet who is not a ballet dancer, or heard someone trying to sing opera without any training? It would make you laugh, no?

Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable discussion with someone who is trying very hard to be nice? You can tell that this person is working hard to be polite but you can tell that it is not genuine. It is as if the person has a mask on their face and is hiding their true nature.

It is similarly awkward when a person you are speaking with tries to impress you with how important he is. You feel doubtful and wonder if they are trying to sell you something that may not be true. Are they merely exaggerating, or are they lying to you?

“Trying to be” means you are working on doing something that does not come naturally to you. It is not you.

Please do not try. If you are angry, be angry. Do not try to be angry. If you are depressed, let yourself be depressed. Do not try to look depressed to get attention. Just be, whatever it is.

When I find people who are genuine, I cannot be offended by them. They are what they are, and I find it refreshing to be with someone who does not try to be but is.

You know where you stand with this kind of person. What you see is what you get. You do not have to have multiple thoughts in your mind as you interact with a genuine person. One of the most difficult parts of interacting with someone who seems disingenuous is that one part of your mind is listening to what they say while another part of your mind is screening the information because you do not trust what you hear or see. It is exhausting if it is prolonged.

It is not always easy to be genuine. In certain situations, it is easier to cover our faces and souls with a mask and pretend to be what we are not.

To be genuine means to have no fear. To be confident enough in one’s own identity to withstand criticism. It’s not easy, but surely productive and beneficial to one’s self.

 

– just sharing a thought…

Being Smart vs Being Interesting

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Smart is good. I’ve always thought that one of the most flattering compliments someone could receive is to be referred to as “bright”, as I feel that word encapsulates much more than just one’s mental aptitude. The ability to learn and have a wealth of knowledge in that thing we call a brain is something to be admired.

The expression “the smartest guy in the room”, depending on how it’s used, can be a term of endearment or a flat out insult. But you can’t deny someone’s brain if it’s functioning at a level superior to your own. I know a few people (my dad being one of them) who I look at and think Wow, your mind is on a totally other level than most.

That being said, I find that most couldn’t really care less about how smart someone is anymore. And I don’t mean those simply making small talks at parties or cocktail hour. Most organizations are hiring based on personality much more than someone’s actual IQ (unless you’re trying to get inside NASA or other  similar institutions, then an exceptional IQ is required). Nowadays, in order to be successful, we all need to understand the shift that’s occurring under our feet.

No one cares about how smart you are. People care about how interesting you are.

 At 36, I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of things. But I want MOREI want to DOAnd I have the utmost respect for those people who are doers, because doers are the most interesting people on the planet. I would much rather someone walk away from having a conversation with me and think, “Wow, that guy is pretty damn interesting,” than, “Man that guy knows a lot of information (read as: useless c**p) that I could just as easily have looked up on my iPhone.”

Old stereotypes are shifting with the technological revolution that we’re living in. We’re connected to a device that can tell us anything we might want or need to know. Being intelligent used to be the main factor, the one thing that makes the difference, it simply isn’t anymore.

With that, I challenge us to make the shift from trying to learn and know about all the stuff in the world to actually living it. 

Be someone that you yourself would find interesting.

Travel the world and meet every type of person it has to offer.

Experience LIFE in a way that most people don’t and will never.

Run down the path that has never been taken.

Try different hobbies.

Try to be a musician, a dancer, a poet.

Do that one thing you’ve been aching to do just for the sake of doing it.

Live LIFE to the fullest reaches of our known existence.

I want to try all of those things. I want to LIVE Life. Because I know for sure, that in the end, I won’t regret it.

How about you? What would you prefer?

Photo credits: Google photos

Enough may never be enough

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As human beings, it seems that once we attain what we think will make us whole, we grow bored quickly and need something new in order to feel satisfied. We are addicted to what we don’t have.

You could sit down at this very moment and list out all the reasons why you’re fortunate, and while you’re writing that list you would want nothing more. You could get together with a group of people that you care about and discuss rational ideas within this irrational society, and in that moment and the hours after, you would feel comfortable with what you have and who you are; contentment feels like a legitimate possibility. It’s when you turn on your television and the talking heads tell you that you need to be rich, famous, and flawless; that your thirst for more becomes unquenchable. You forget that you are enough. You find yourself making comparisons between your life and the life of someone you assume has it all figured out, and all of your accomplishments are never enough to satisfy you.

The issue with this “never enough” mentality is that we all have it to some degree. We collectively fail to realize that even the people who have “figured it out” are on some level still as lost and broken as everyone else. That’s the drawback of being a member of the generation more interested in documenting life-like activities, rather than creating a life. If we always seem confident in the pictures and words that we post, then maybe we will start to feel that way in real life. Everyone is constantly looking for validation in the form of likes and comments to give meaning to our twisted sense of self. We honestly believe that as long as people buy into the illusion that we are happy and everything is going great, that we won’t have to face reality.

Reality is that we want all the material c**p, social media fame, and worthless validation in order to feel accepted by others. The reason all of those things bring only temporary satisfaction is that they aren’t the answer. We all keep looking for other people to accept us in order to feel whole, when all that’s truly necessary is that we accept ourselves. We are in a universal competition for acceptance that no one wants a part of, but so few have the courage to stop competing.

What will ever be enough?

 

Photo credits: Google photos