One Year Later

It always surprises me how quickly a year goes by. Today, December 22, marks the one year anniversary of the day I came back from Korea. If you haven’t been around, I had an epic health meltdown that prompted my quick return, and this past year has been one of healing, discovery, and baby steps on the path to…well, something. The future, but that sounds cheesy.

Taking stock, I’ve done a hell of a lot this year.

You can see that in between the small things, life has taken a quick upswing in momentum. I got a job, a car, and a new home all within about four months, and those were four of my five big milestones for my life I wrote back at the beginning of this year.

One year later, everything is coming up roses. I’m still stressed out about money and life and the future and everything, but I’m learning to live with that fear. I’m learning to walk with it instead of constantly fighting it, and overall, I’m feeling eager, hopeful, and curious about life. If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that life can change in a day, and what you thought would be the trajectory of your life is but the next ten feet in the fog, and you really, really can’t see beyond that.

This next year, I have so, so many plans, and some of those will succeed and most of them will fail, but always, I will strive to fail better, and so life will go on.

Happy New Year, friends, and happy anniversary to me.

But Out: Replace This One Word to Change Your Life

We live in a world of contradictions.

“I want to do this, but I have to do that.”

We hear this all the time. We say this all the time.

“I want to build my business, but I spend so much time at work.”

“I want to achieve my goals, but I have to take care of my family.” 

“I want to travel, but I don’t have enough money.” 

That one word, but, removes our power in those statements. It makes the two items around the but absolutely incompatible. You can’t do both, is what a statement like that says.

Our words are powerful. They have the power to change our minds, and in doing so, change our lives. We all know how the stories we tell about ourselves impact us. Being a linguistics major, I can tell you that the words we choose to use about ourselves, about others, about anything, matter. They matter a lot.

And, unfortunately, this habit of using but between two items is very, very common. So common we don’t even realize there’s another grammatical way of saying the same thing, one that gives us power back.

Instead of using but, use and. Replace every but up there with and and see what happens.

“I want to build my business, and I spend so much time at work.” 

“I want to achieve my goals, and I have to take care of my family.” 

“I want to travel, and I don’t have enough money.” 

By replacing that one word, we’ve given power back to ourselves. Instead of lamenting that we don’t have enough time to work on our business or our dreams, we realize that we have obligations, and we have dreams, and we can do both. We aren’t sacrificing our families or quitting our jobs, we’re finding ways to work with them.

In the last example, the use of and creates an incentive for action. Okay, so you don’t have enough money to travel, and you want to, so now, how will you get that money? But kind of implies that “oh well, I don’t have enough money. That’s that,” and forces no further action. It stops us in our tracks. But and implies a realization of your current situation and a call to action.

It’s amazing how this simple change can affect your outlook, your optimism, your mindset, and your energy levels.

Now, I don’t recommend replacing every but with and all the time. You’ll sound weird. Just try it out with things that really get you stumped. That make you feel down. The phrases that put a pause in your action plan.

Reframe the idea that two things are incompatible with the idea that there is a way to have both. You can have a full workload and build a business on the side. You can be less than wealthy and travel the world.* You can take care of your family and pursue your goals.

You can do whatever you choose to. So give power back to yourself now. Take the buts out.

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*For tips on traveling cheap, check out anything by Chris Guillebeau on Travel Hacking.

Quarter Life Crisis: Redux

Man Holding Pen

When I was around 23, I had a quarter-life crisis.  It’s a cute term for a terrible, terrible feeling that most people my age can relate to.

I’m feeling the same way now. Not growing, not grown. Stuck in limbo. Stuck in a pit stop that is, honestly, the pits.

I mean, some things are looking up. I had failed miserably in my habit upkeep for about three months, but I’m back on track now, working hard to stave off the inevitable psychic collapse.

Okay, that sounds dramatic. But that’s what it feels like. Underneath the hope in my new projects and plans, there’s this fear that they won’t work at all, that I’ll be stuck at my retail job for all eternity, that I’ll never find time to date and will end up alone, that my legacy will be a few happy customers and some good D&D memories. “Legacy…what is a legacy?”* 

I was at work the other day and had this thought that kind of helped and really hurt. I wrote it down on one of our memos so I wouldn’t forget it because I thought it was pretty good.

“Don’t confuse purpose with certainty.”

I used to confuse these two all the time or at least, kind of. I mean, I thought that if I “found” my purpose, then certainty would be a kind of tag-along, the other side of the golden purpose coin.

I thought purpose was the end all and be all of confidence and peace of mind. But the more I read about people who, in my opinion, definitely have purpose, the more I’m convinced that’s not the case. They all struggle with doubt. Famous authors who’ve written a dozen books before doubt their own ability. Famous YouTubers struggle. Everyone does. It’s not a case of the haves and the have-nots at odds over feeling peaceful. It’s a choice anyone can make.

In fact, I think the best caveat to my little quote there is another one;

“Purpose is a byproduct of action.”

That one may not be my own; I seem to remember reading it somewhere before…

And I can’t forget my own advice about a creativity crisis either, that sometimes the years go by with nothing to show but effort, but that effort is absolutely key to making a change.

Now, those actions. What actions am I currently taking and what actions will I take to get a sense of purpose?

Currently taking:

  • Keeping up with habits daily
  • Writing this blog
  • Not complaining about things I can’t change
  • Accepting negative situations and feelings (I consider this action, because it’s a purposeful choice every time I’m tempted to do otherwise)
  • Reading a hell of a lot of books

Will take:

  • Write daily (instead of monthly)
  • Do more art
  • Learn how to make websites
  • Parent myself to do the hard things (courtesy of Mel Robbins)
  • Be honest
  • Finish more to-do lists

I have a lot more actions to take regarding specific projects I’m working on, but I want to keep those under wraps for now.

The problem is, being a multipotentialite, I can barely stick with one course of action for very long before I need to move to another. I tried that rotating priorities board, but it didn’t really stick. Daily lists are more my style.

Anyway, plans aside, the crisis is well underway, or would it be continuing from those years ago? Does it ever really end, or is what we call the quarter-life crisis merely the full brunt of adulthood assaulting our tender hearts and spirits with the crushing reality that childhood dreams can never be realized? Or am I just waxing doleful and moronic?

We’ll never know.

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*Lyrics from Hamilton, the greatest musical

I Failed, and That’s a Good Thing

Fall Berries

Well, We All Fall Down

Remember my four-month check-in? I was doing so well. I had those nice preprinted habit trackers that I filled in faithfully each day, getting a jolt of pleasure every time I checked one off. It was addicting to be so fruitful, and I felt like I was making good progress. Towards what, I didn’t know. Recovery, in a sense, as by the time four months was up, I was well enough to start going out and thinking about getting a job.

A job. Well, I do have a job now, and I’m very, very grateful. It’s even full-time, which means I get health insurance; my biggest financial concern.

Here’s the thing though, once I started job hunting, my habits shut down. Now, I’m not one for excuses *cough cough*, but there are a few reasons.

An Irresponsibility of Excuses

Firstly, I stopped using the preprinted habit trackers. I made my own for May in a different format, which worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t easy to see the markers, and I wasn’t as into it as the others. It just didn’t give the same satisfaction. Then I got less interested in bullet journaling, as has happened before, and stopped tracking them at all, relying on what I hoped were well-enough ingrained habits to keep me going. Turns out they weren’t very ingrained.

Thirdly, in June I got a pretty bad case of vertigo. I think it was a headcold messing up the fluid in my inner ears, because it lasted for quite a while, and while it was bad, I stopped doing yoga and meditation, since closing my eyes made my head spin. It was hard to concentrate, and I started looking for a job around the same time, which took all the energy I could muster.

Then there was the job search itself. I applied online and in person for about six weeks before I heard anything, and it was about two months of looking overall. The stress was impressive, and while I didn’t have a full relapse, thank heavens, I let a lot of others things slide.

Failure Is A Great Teacher

I failed to keep up my habits. I failed to make them stick, to keep up my good streak. Add to that the compounded guilt of making new habits and restarting it all and everything else kind of slipped away too. This blog, for instance. I stopped logging in to Habitica. I stopped exercising and put on weight. All I could do was work, and think about work, and zone out after work from sheer exhaustion.

But you know what? It’s okay. It was even good. Because I needed to fail, and fail hard, to see what had worked and what would work again, and what wouldn’t.

It’s good because now it’s September again, a time of refreshing for me. I have always begun anew mentally in September when the weather begins to change, rains come, and Mabon nears (autumn equinox). As we celebrate the waning of the year,  I celebrate a revitalized interest and energy in improvement. In change.

Celebrate Renewal

  • I set up Habitica once again.
  • I collected rainwater to symbolize refresh.
  • I made a list of projects to work on, and plans for each one.
  • I forgave myself for messing up.
  • I developed a new mindset about work (mainly, that it has no right to stress me out).

These small things have meant that last Saturday, I awoke for the first time in a long time with hope for myself. I have felt a weight of unknown-ness, a pressure that my life wasn’t where I wanted it. I felt underemployed, and useless, packing books on interesting subjects for other people who must be doing so much more for themselves than I was.

I packed books on performance and storyboarding for people who must be getting amazing jobs making stories in Hollywood, books on physics for people who must love it, and be working in labs making a difference, books on business for all the amazing people who must be starting their own businesses, as I longed to.

And books on writing, the same books I’d read or wanted to read, for people who must be actually writing at home, instead of watching TV and dreaming their lives away…

But Saturday I awoke with hope, and forgave myself, and made a plan, and followed through.

And it’s all very, very good.

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The Cult of Hustle

“As we’ll see, as well-intentioned and glamorous as the Religion of Hustle is, it often backfires on people. Because the truth is that most types of work (especially work that will make you some money in 2017) does not produce linear returns, it produces diminishing returns.” – Mark Manson

The cult of hustle is a relatively new phenomenon, and like most new(ish) trends in self-improvement and business, it’s got a good heart.

I scoured the internet to find the best examples of hustle, and here’s what I found:

Articles

The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle

How to Hustle Your Way to Your Dream Job in 4 Steps

How To Hustle Your Way To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur

WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL? HUSTLE LIKE A G (6 CASE STUDIES TO PROVE IT)

Memes

 

“Harsh but true ... Keep going,  no one cares !!! #hustle #hustler”
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Well.... We'll see...
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Keep Up That Hustle, Girl ||
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Moving Mountains Motivation: Rise and Grind
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As you can see, the whole idea is that the harder you work, the more you can accomplish. Well…duh. That’s not rocket science. The idea goes back to America’s industrial and Protestant history when colonists and later immigrants worked harder to get ahead. The American dream is all about working hard to make a life for yourself (classically; I don’t know what it’s morphed into now – to have the most Insta-worthy life?).

But the cult of hustle takes this basic, good idea and turns hard work into clout. Hustle becomes a badge of superiority, and it does so in some very unhealthy ways.

The majority of those articles above relate one thing to hustle above all others – pain. Suffering. Sacrifice. If you’re not struggling, rising bleary-eyed at 5am with only four hours of sleep and sweating through whatever your vision is, you’re not doing “it” right, whatever “it” is for you.

Unfortunately, the bad advice is often mixed in so well with the good that we tend to swallow the concoction whole. There is merit in hard work. If you stay in your comfort zone you won’t change and grow. If you don’t make changes things will stay the same. Those are all true. But the idea that daily sacrifice day in and day out will guarantee success is flawed. The problem is, we only hear the success stories. “I hustled my way to success and here’s how” and anyone who followed the advice and didn’t earn six figures in six months knows they just aren’t hustling enough.

The most disturbing part to me is how many inane quotes on the internet glorify the lack of sleep as a symbol of passion and drive.

Here are two articles on sleep and productivity, one from the Washington Times and one from Sleep.org. Unfortunately for hustlers, scientific studies have shown that losing sleep makes people less productive, so much so that Kelly McGonigal says they’re often as muddled as someone who is drunk (The Willpower Instinct).

From students in college pulling all-nighters before exams to hustlers working 4am-midnight, lack of sleep is only going to hurt your chances.

So why is the cult of hustle so prevalent? Well, there are a few reasons.

First, hustle = success is a very simple formula. Work hard, earn loads. It’s attractive because while it’s not necessarily easy, it is simple, and it seems to take all the guesswork and question of innate talent out of the picture. Follow these steps and make money. (Sounds like a get rich quick scheme to me, no matter how much pain is involved.)

Second, it’s independent. Most hustle quotes also involved things like “being ahead of the pack,” quips about leading the wolves, and other ideas that standing alone at the front is glorious. Very American. Independence, owning your own business, not being attached, making your own schedule (4am-12am, so awesome!); it all flouts the idea of community and support, and re-asserts the idea that you can do everything on your own, not a great virtue in today’s disconnected and aching world. (The goal of a mature person should not be independence – the highest form of maturity is interdependence, according to Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. See a great article here.)

And third, it’s a status symbol. Being a hustler is a generally applauded notion, again, going back to America’s roots of the virtue of hard work. The Protestants held a very firm notion that hard work, discipline, and frugality led to a good (moral) life (Wikipedia). Too bad we’ve got the hard work and discipline down without the frugality since most of the point of hustle seems to be to be able to own the fanciest cars bought with your hard-earned dollars.

Regardless of its roots, hustle means being able to lord yourself over your lazy colleagues who waste their lives working 9-5 and aren’t also side-hustling, writing books and content, working on starting their own business or in any other way not wearing themselves to the bone. Hustle is a moral thing. Hustle is good. Hustle is virtuous. Rest is becoming sin. Contentment is becoming complacency (read the dictionary on that one).

It’s a dangerous trap to fall into. And it’s very easy now that the cult of hustle has spread so rapidly and so quickly. But it’s just a trend, the age-old hard-work ethic wrapped up in fancy memes and productivity hacks.

It doesn’t guarantee a good life.

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