Build State, But Don’t Depend On It

Boy, do I have some rust to shake off. It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post. I took a trip to Dallas for Spring Break as a means to deal with the burn out I’d been going through, and I haven’t done any work since before leaving for the trip.

It was a well earned break. It was my first vacation in three years, and I’d needed it. Unfortunately, I’ve lost all the work momentum I’d acquired prior to going on vacation. Today is my third day back, and this is the first time I’ve worked.

I’ve been procrastinating ever since I’ve returned, and though I’m not proud of my behavior this situation has brought an interesting concept to my attention. I’ve realized there’s two keys to taking action.

Craft Your Environment/Generate State

The first key to taking action is crafting your environment and/or using techniques to generate a state within yourself conductive to your success. Though these may intertwine at times they can be exclusive from each other as well, and they include anything that makes taking action easier.

If you’re trying to eat healthier, crafting your environment could include only keeping healthy food in the house. If you’re trying to be a more positive person crafting an environment may mean eliminating negative people from your life.

Generating a beneficial psychological state within yourself can also be beneficial for taking action. A simple example of this is music. Listening to Journey may help you enter an inspired mood, while listening to Nicki Minaj may cause you to want to violently cut your ears off.

For a more complex example let’s say you’re at a party and there’s a pretty girl you’d like to talk to, but feel intimidated by.

Instead of feeling bad about being a coward simply begin interacting with other people, and by putting yourself into a social mood talking to the dime piece won’t feel as intimidating.

Do The Damn Thing

While crafting an environment conductive to your success and generating flow are two effective methods in decreasing the amount of willpower needed to take action they also have a dark side. You can become dependent on them.

Instead of writing when you need to write you may rationalize that you can’t because you haven’t had a perfect night of sleep. Alternatively, you may believe that you only have the ability, or entitlement to talk to your perfect 10 when you’ve acquired a massive amount of social momentum and are in a great state, and this simply isn’t true.

Having an environment conductive to your success, or being in the perfect state shouldn’t be requirements to taking action. They should be a bonus.

We tend to underestimate what we’re capable of in even the worst of states. Maybe being in a perfect mood will give you a 50% chance of things working out with the cute girl at the party, but even if you start the night in a bad mood and only have a 5% chance of things working out isn’t it still worth a try?

Here’s what’s interesting. Though being in a flow state can make taking action easier this process also works in reverse. Taking action can help you enter a flow state.

Talking to the cute girl isn’t particularly intimidating when you’ve been building up a social mood with your friends for several hours. However, though possibly more difficult, talking to lots of cute girls can also lead you to entering a flow state, and thus allow you to maximize your social abilities more quickly.

For a work-related example let’s take writing. Because this was the first time I wrote in 9 days it was incredibly difficult to write coherently. At the beginning I wasn’t at all articulate, and I’m still struggling, but 600 words into this post and I’m starting to get a glimpse of the flow I had when I was writing everyday.

Though I’m certainly not at my best right now in regards to writing, my fingers keep going because I understand that I can’t be reliant on being in the perfect state to write blog posts or I’ll never get anything published.

You’ve got to be the same way in the things important to you. Optimize your state for what you can, but at the end of the day you’ve got to take action and produce a result whether you feel like it or not. Fortunately, you’ll often find the desire to take more action follows your first step.

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Why People Never Give You A Chance

Ever have the experience of meeting someone, and within five minutes they’ve already decided they want nothing to do with you? Ummm yeeahh… me neither 😉 Seriously though, I think there’s a few reasons this happens, and I’ll lay them out for you in this post.

You’re Socially Uncalibrated (You Put Off Bad Vibes)

There’s a kid in one of my classes, and I don’t even know his name, but he’s one of the weirdest people I’ve ever met. There’ll be a group of us talking, and he’ll interrupt our conversation to ask if McDonald’s is pronounced Mick-Don-Alds, or Mack-Don-Alds.

I don’t think he’s gay, but he reminds of a newbie pickup artist trying out his opinion openers. The sad thing is his that some of his lines aren’t too bad. Sometimes the things he says actually make sense, or would be funny if he didn’t have such a creepy vibe. That’s the problem.

When socializing it’s not so much about what you say, it’s how you say it. We’ve all had jokes that seemed brilliant in our heads fall flat, and things that came to us in the moment that caused the whole room to explode in laughter.

A lot of people get caught up in what they’re going to say when socializing. In reality it just doesn’t matter, and by thinking of what to say you’re actually decreasing the quality of banter you’re capable of producing.

You can tell from this kid’s vibe he clearly has an agenda. He probably wants to leech positive emotions, validation, or social-proof off us. I couldn’t tell you exactly what, but it’s clear he’s trying to extract something from us rather than just vibe and enjoy the process of socializing. The result? Nice people like me get creeped out, and the rest of people just tell him to fuck off, and get lost.

Harsh? Perhaps. Justified? Yes, and I know that sounds bad as he’s in a self-perpetuating cycle. Be creepy, get excluded, need more validation, and develop even creepier behaviors. Bad social behaviors get punished though, and when the pain becomes too great he’ll have no choice, but to pull himself out of it.

You Haven’t Produced Results Or Are Ungrounded

Socializing is one area people may not give you a chance, but what’s another? Your advice, and ideas.

Over the last couple years I’ve focused heavily on my personal growth, and at times reached out to others offering to help them with theirs. Some were ecstatic to receive my help, and others weren’t so receptive, but I noticed a common denominator.

People look at two things to determine whether or not your advice is worth taking. How grounded you are in your belief, and the level of results you’ve produced with that belief.

The first is the result of mirror neurons and social pinging; group think at it’s most basic level. We don’t have time to personally investigate everything ourselves, so if other people seem reasonably certain about something we tend to buy-in to it as well.

The level of results you’ve produced with your belief is also important because it’s only common sense to assume that if someone adopts the same philosophy or strategy as you they’ll produce similar results.

This is why people who read lots of self-improvement content without taking action can have an intellectual understanding of the principles necessary to produce success, but at the same time lack the ability to get others to buy-in to them.

It’s Not You, It’s Them

Some people won’t be open to your advice or experiencing your reality regardless of what you do. They may be close-minded, have a stacking of rationalizations that prevent them from listening to you, or simply have a success barrier blocking them off.

There’s nothing you can do about these people, but remember, and I know we’re going out on a limb here, but “theoretically speaking,” other people could be right once in a while as well. 😉

Using the other tips provided here, however, should greatly increase your ability to interact with people who are open to working with you.

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Pursue Higher Consciousness Happiness

Yesterday was a doozy of a day. I gorged myself with food the entire morning, and stared at the ceiling half-unconscious for the first two hours of the afternoon. I don’t drink, but I imagine that was what being hammered feels like and question why anyone would ever intentionally inflict that upon themselves.

By 3:30 P.M. the only thing I had accomplished was my daily meditation session. I’d been lazy all day, and I felt terrible. I managed to salvage the rest of the day with two hours of juggling practice, a blog post, and the recording of a video, but yesterday was still a weak day.

Today, however, has been the exact opposite. After allowing myself to fall into a weird haze for the first half of yesterday I decided to start today strong. I woke up at 6:45, and have already recorded and edited a video, eaten breakfast, and am currently in the process of writing my third blog post of the day.

The current time? 11:05. That’s when I was finishing second breakfast yesterday. How do I feel today? More engaged, and satisfied than I’ve been in a long time. The exact opposite of yesterday.

It’s interesting because on one level we perceive pleasure to be exerting the least amount of effort possible. Eating potato chips, while watching Walking Dead or surfing Reddit.

I suppose that’s one type of pleasure, but it’s also a type that’s shortly lived. When you think of the top 5 days of your life do they include the Friday nights you spent watching marathons of Jersey Shore?

Probably not. More likely your best memories are times you were experiencing the breadth of life. When you went on your first date with the woman you love(d), the time you traveled to a state or country you’d never been to before, the time you and your friends started a conga line and took over the club’s entire dance floor.

Those were the best times of your life. Not the times you were ungrounded and allowing life to blow you like a leaf in the wind. Yet, the reason we still perceive laziness to be pleasurable is we’re biologically programmed to minimize the amount of effort we exert.

We don’t do more than we have to, and that’s satisfying to our DNA. However, that’s a shallow form of happiness, and what I’m going to suggest to you is that there are different “Levels of Happiness.”

On the genetic level we have things like eating, sleeping, and meeting our sexual needs. However, a higher level of pleasure exists within our hearts and souls. Contributing, learning, feeling we made a difference, loving, having fun, being adventurous, etc, and I think that’s where we’ve gone wrong.

Most people have gotten into boring daily routines that no longer allow them to experience these higher levels of happiness so they’re forced to abuse the lower levels of happiness in an attempt to manage their emotions.

What I’m suggesting to you is two things. One is that by falling in love, by being adventurous, and contributing you’ll become more engaged with life, and have a greater capacity to experience positive emotions.

Two is that because you’ll have a greater ecosystem of positive emotions you’ll also have a higher capacity to intelligently manage your lower level needs. Everybody needs to eat, but when you’re already emotionally satisfied what you eat becomes a rational decision rather than an emotional one.

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Added another post to the community section last night. Also, I’m officially on Spring Break now! I’m looking forward to recharging, recording videos in new locations (including various parts of Texas as well as Chicago next week), and doing my best to take the content here to the next level!

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Make Productivity Into A Game

I just started the dryer. That means I have approximately 40 minutes to write, and edit this blog post. I can already tell you that this isn’t going to be a 3,000 word masterpiece on how to create the life of your dreams from ground zero.

What I can tell you is that this post probably will end up being 500 words of stream of consciousness writing. Of course, that may seem stressful right? Write 10-15 perfectly edited words per minute for the world to judge for the rest of eternity.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. Writing quickly is actually less stressful as I’m more of a facilitator to the process rather than the one actively driving it. My subconscious mind is the one in control of this game.

My fingers move, and the words appear, but few thoughts if any come to my mind. Pure writing at its finest.

Something I think a lot of people in the world are guilty of is excessively stressing about how productive they are. If I don’t do this than ‘x’ is going to happen or I’ll make ‘y’ less dollars.

On one level that’s an awesome attitude to have. Produce the best results you’re capable of. While certainly a noble intention, it also has its drawbacks; stress and eventual burnout.

So let’s employ a different attitude to productivity instead. Instead of stressing about your todo list make it into a game. For everything on your todo list ask yourself, “How can I make this enjoyable or self-amusing?”

See how fast you can write that blog post (Though obviously take time later to make it polished and readable). Spend a minute dancing for your coworkers every time you make a sale. See how badly you can get rejected by a girl.

Make it fun, and you’ll become more process oriented. Interestingly enough that process orientation is what’ll propel you to producing the best results.

Is this always possible? Probably not, but this isn’t an all or nothing attitude either. Apply it when you can, and instead of struggling for every last inch of productivity you’ll glide through your tasks and get more done anyway. Take life seriously, but not too seriously.

The people who produce the best results are often extremely driven, and goal-oriented while paradoxically realizing that everything they do or acquire will at some point cease to exist.

That’s ok though because we’re no longer taking action for the end result. We’re making the process itself fun. Craft your processes to be enjoyable, and you’ll often find the results follow your enthusiasm.

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Standard Adjustment Procedures

Last night I struggled to fall asleep. Typically I rest in the soldier sleep position, but because I was restless I decided to try sleeping in a pretty unorthodox position.

Normally I try going for a short walk, or moving from the floor to the bed, but for whatever reason I was undisciplined and decided to do things differently last night. I ended up falling asleep, but woke up this morning with soreness in my neck.

Probably not a big deal in the long term, or even on the course of how today will play out, but I’ve realized that this is how a lot of good habits get broken.

Life gets in the way, or we simply feel lazy one day and decide to skip our habits of success because doing so is slightly easier in the moment. However, because of that we spiral downward every so slightly and are worse off in everything except the very, very short-term.

The longer we leave our habits unkept the worse our situations become as well. If tonight I go back to my regular sleeping habits then last night will have been essentially irrelevant.

However, if tonight I was to have trouble falling asleep again and decided to sleep in an unorthodox position rather than taking a walk, or meditating I could be establishing a habit that’ll ruin my neck and sleep quality.

The lesson? For all of your habits have standard adjustment procedures you stick to when life gets in the way. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off, but simultaneously don’t allow yourself to indulge in negative habits just, “One more time.”

Adding adjustment procedures to your life is a simple change, but it’s also a powerful one.

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Stop Filtering Yourself

This blog post is going to be an exercise in both honesty and my current beliefs about the world. I’m coming from a paradigm in which I believe the best way to write is to write as quickly as possible.

Is this always the case? Probably not. In highly technical car manuals, or other heavy machinery we don’t want the engineers writing safety booklets in 45 minutes.

I don’t write fiction either so I can’t comment on whether novels are best written quickly or slowly, but I can tell you one thing. When you write quickly you’re able to share a completely different vibe with your audience. Your tone is different when you’re not overly concerned on how every single word is going to sound.

I’m not correcting mistypes, spelling or other grammatical errors as I write this. If you read this before I gave it a proffread you may not have known if I was a native English spekare. Haha, just spelled speaker wrong. Proofread too.

What’s interesting though, is that in the process of eliminating censorship it almost appears as if you gain access to a more intelligent state of mind. I can’t remember where, but I do remember once reading that writing and editing use different sides of the brain.

If that’s the case then every time you stop to correct a spelling mistake or every time you nitpick the structuring of a sentence you’re losing your flow. Of course, you could argue that polish is what allows a piece to shine.

Perhaps, but if a piece lacks substance it isn’t going to shine regardless of your polish. Authenticity puts on a certain shine that proper grammar can’t.

Also realize that after you finish writing you can go back and proofread everything. Feel free to tidy up every spelling mistake, restructure every sentence, and debate every possible grammatical error, but do so only after producing the original piece.

That’s what’s going to allow you to produce something worth polishing. Getting the scuff marks off nice shoes is great, but people are going to laugh at you regardless of how well you polish your $4.99 half-torn-hobo sneakers from Goodwill.

Socializing And Filtering Yourself

In addition to filtering yourself when writing, self-filterization is a common phenomenon in socializing as well. Although I’m a much more competent writer than socializer, I can tell you from experience that the times I’ve been most socially successful have been when I’ve had no filter for the actions I was going to take or things I was going to say.

Filtering yourself to some degree may be an intelligent decision in a business setting, but when you’re at the beach with your friends there’s little need for self-filterization, and those who do censor themselves get punished. Why?

Because filtering yourself is the equivalent to pointing a flashing arrow at yourself saying, “I am low value.” Here’s why, when you’re trapped in your head thinking of what to say, others sense that you’ve put them on a pedestal.

If you were on their level you wouldn’t need to think of things to impress them. You could just be you. So what should you do? Just be you. Yeah, easier said than done. I know.

That’s why we have aids like meditation, building social momentum, and making little social missions for ourselves to acquire reference experiences for our brains.

When we provide them with proof rather than promises that it’s possible, and even beneficial to socialize successfully without having to be overly analytical, we reinforce positive habits of authenticity.

When people can see that you’re not censoring yourself it shows a lot of good things about you. You feel you belong. You’re comfortable with yourself. You’re not putting them on a pedestal.

When people can be around you for an extended period of time, and see that you’re just being you rather than trying to strategically manipulate the social situation; they’ll enjoy your company and inevitably grow more comfortable, and authentic with you in return.

That is, unless they have their own social hangups and believe that they’re not entitled to being around a free social being. If that’s the case, however, you probably don’t want to be hanging out with them anyway.

Realize that being a filterer inevitably leads to people believing that you have something to hide and a reason to filter yourself. Be completely authentic, and you’ll produce better results and feel more free in your social interactions.

Now go. Be free. Stop worrying about what others think, as the best way to get others to think positively of you is to congruently act in a manner that shows you don’t care about what they think.

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BAM! 900+ words in 21 minutes. We’re going to need to do some heavy editing here, but it’s proof of the preaching.

(Blog post ended up about 100 words shorter after 30 minutes of polishing.)

(Picture is from 7th grade in 2010.)

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Focus On Fundamentals Before Chasing Marginal Gains

Coming into this weekend I was pretty burnt out. In addition to writing almost everyday for a month I was also going to school 40 hours per week, practicing two hours per day for my upcoming variety show performance, doing maintenance work in the gym, and attempting to immerse myself in the Spanish language.

I could feel myself slowly running out of energy, and I knew I had to do something to get the gears running smoothly once again. I thought about researching some new productivity ideas, or lifestyle strategies that may have allowed me to prolong my run.

What happened instead was some friends invited me to go watch the Kentucky vs Wisconsin basketball game. I was in a completely anti-social mood, and lacked any degree of social momentum. However, I’d been grinding for several weeks so I decided to go anyway.

I was in a weird haze for the first half of the night, and had difficulty maintaining any level of conversation. People would ask me questions, and I’d give them one word response before immediately turning myself back towards the television.

I didn’t even care about the game either. The only reason I went to the party was to socialize, and get out of the haze I’d been in all day. Towards the end of the night, perhaps aided by my sleep deprivation I began making jokes, and enjoying myself.

On one level it was too late as the party had already died, and we were getting ready to leave. However, on another level those 3.5 hours of sitting awkwardly before finally pushing myself into a social mood was exactly what I needed.

Despite last night being a late one and getting lousy rest because of it, I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. I’ve been a lot more social today as well, and I’ve effectively put myself into an upward spiral both socially and in general.

It’s interesting, however, because despite knowing I’d feel better after socializing I was reluctant to go out. I see this tendency in lots of other people as well. They prioritize the search of obscure tactics, and magic pill solutions over simply focusing on the fundamentals.

They research “Super Foods” before eliminating highly processed foods, and establishing a balanced diet in general. They research the ideal weightlifting program, and refuse to begin exercising until they’ve found it.

They become victims to complete analysis paralysis. They get stuck in an endless mental circle jerk. One that’s extremely difficult to escape.

As Sebastian Marshall recently wrote on his blog, there’s a lot of power in marginal gains. If meditating in nature provides me an additional 3% productivity boost over meditating indoors that’s certainly a change I should implement.

However, indoor meditation may provide me a 15% productivity boost over not meditating at all. Obviously meditating in nature is better even if this is the case, but you’ll probably never even think to meditate in nature if you don’t first commit to meditating in general.

Again, marginal gains can produce significant results when compounded over time, but these gains should only be pursued when you’ve already taken advantage of the processes that can consistently produce significant results over a short period of time.

Don’t get stuck in an endless mental circle jerk. Focus first on what you know will produce significant results, and only after you’ve implemented what you already know should you then partition your focus chasing those off the wall solutions that will produce marginal gains.

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Post written last weekend, just a little behind in publishing.

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Fill Your Own Cup First

In March I went on a fabulous run as far as blogging is concerned. I wrote 21 posts, and recorded 21 videos in 24 days which is among the most consistent I’ve ever been. During that time I produced a lot of content for the blog, and greatly improved my public speaking skills. At the end of that time, however, I felt like I was running out of things to give.

Blog posts became stretch ideas rather than things I’d extensively tested, and put into practice. I felt like the stereotypical housewife who is so busy doing things for others she herself falls apart.

My life turned into a repetitive grind. Wake up, go to school, practice juggling, write a blog post, record a video, and then go to sleep. Every single day.

I think having a highly disciplined lifestyle is great, but after a month of repetitiveness I wasn’t tired; I was drained. Being tired is something you can fight through, but being drained is simply not having anything left to give.

I was overly stressed and had difficulty laughing or relating to others in social situations. I became less grounded, and was having trouble finding motivation. I’d been working so hard to contribute to others that I’d forgotten the most important person. Me.

When we think of selflessness that overworked housewife is who first comes to mind, but should she? The reality is that the greatest giver isn’t he who never allows himself to receive. The most significant contributor is he who cultivates something worth giving, and then openly shares his fruit with the world.

To fill others cups you must first fill your own. Do not misinterpret this as meaning you need to leech off of others that already possess the resources, or energy you’d like to contribute to the world. It’s unlikely that’s necessary.

Just plant the seeds you need for your own endeavors. If you’d like to inspire others, become inspired yourself. If you want to create a more positive world, become more positive yourself.

Everyone looks to change the world, but few look to change themselves. However, those who work to change themselves usually become the ones with the most leverage to influence the rest of the world.

Also keep in mind, however, that what fulfills you may paradoxically drain you. Too much of a good thing is never good. Three weightlifting sessions per week? Good. Three sessions per day? Your body quickly withers away.

Writing regular blog posts to contribute, and internalize lessons you’ve learned from real life experiences? Awesome! Not having time to acquire real life reference experiences, because you’re so busy writing? Not so good.

Of course, ideally you’ll build a life that allows you to constantly pour into others. Writing a meaningful blog post everyday is entirely possible if you’re in a position where you’re traveling the world, or otherwise rapidly acquiring unique reference experiences.

However, until you do reach that position it’s best to contribute when you’ve got something worthy of contribution and spend the rest of your energy building a life that allows you to cultivate energy and ideas the world would benefit from receiving.

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You Say Fu#% Mondays? I Say Fu#% You!

We were sitting in class. It was a regular Monday morning. Me and her. Her and me. I was rolling like a ‘G’. There was a sense of warmth, and empathy extending from my actions. On her side, however, things were dark.

I likened her behavior to being a direct parallel to the bottom of a deep crevice on the dark side of the moon. In other words, she was in a dark place. While I sought to illuminate, and brighten others’ day, she assumed the role of an energetic vampire hoping to leech off the positive emotions of others. If that wasn’t to be successful she was simply going to bring everyone else down with her.

I am not one to judge, however, I also believe it’s important to identify behavioral patterns. This wasn’t just one of those days where Murphy’s Law took over her life. This is every Monday.

Of course, good things rarely come out of insensitively pointing out others’ negative behavioral patterns. Instead, I simply asked her if everything was ok. Her response?

NO EVERYTHING IS NOT OK! IT’S A MONDAY! I HATE MONDAYS! HOW DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH ENERGY? RRAAAHHH RAHHH RAHAHAHHAHA

She concluded her rant by throwing her textbook at my head, which resulted in me having a minor concussion, as well as the textbook losing its binding upon impact with the ground.

Ok, I jest. This was very much overplayed. The entire scene didn’t result in the assault of a textbook, or me seeing stars. The point still remains, however.

You don’t want to be the energetic vampire every Monday [Or the self-help geek who tries to counsel her]. 😉 There’s nothing inherently different about Monday than any other day. When you’re on vacation from your job, or on summer break from school you probably don’t even realize when Monday comes around.

Yet, when we’re at school, or our jobs we cry and give ourselves permission to be miserable each Monday, and don’t allow ourselves to fully live until the weekend.

Slaving away five days of your life each week for two days of freedom is a crappy deal. Nobody would make that decision consciously, and that’s a large part of the problem.

We’re social learners. We see everyone else miserable on Mondays so we feel like it’s only normal to feel the same. We don’t even question it. That changes now. Reading this post is your red pill.

Maybe Monday’s not going to be the best day of the week. Just like anyone else I have more fun spending a day at the beach with my friends, than a day in school doing Quadratic Equations. However, I also realize something. This day is going to pass whether I make the most of it or not.

Do your best in structuring a life that provides you an enjoyable “Educational experience,” and fulfilling work, but even if you’re not yet doing what you’d most like to be doing make the most of life anyway. Happiness is a choice (for the most part).

A minute on the toilet is still a minute of your life. An hour spent writing essays for a class you don’t care about is still an hour of your life. A Monday you choose to feel bad on is one less Monday you have to experience positive emotions.

The hourglass of your life is slowly pouring. You’re inching ever closer to death with each passing second. You’ve got the free will to write off today as just one of those days, but you also have the choice to make the most of your circumstances, even if they’re not what you perceive to be ideal.

And why wouldn’t you? Time is going to pass whether you complain, or enjoy life to the best of your ability. Might as well cherish it.

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More experimental writing in the first half of this post. I’m a really goofy person in real life, but I feel my blog posts and videos always come across as being super stiff, and serious. I don’t think I have the right calibration yet, but it’s something I’ll continue to work on in the coming months.

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