Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Implementing Change

Step 1) How bad do you want it?

Step 2) If you want it bad enough, you will figure the rest out.

Seriously, that pretty much covers it.

Of course this can broken down into an infinite number of variables and possibilities, all of which you will be left to decipher in real time. And you will be faced with new questions to answer at every step of the way, of which some will seem to have no answer at all. But at the end of the day, it still all comes down to steps 1 & 2.

The one who wants it the most wins.

Stay The Course

To continue doing something until it is finished or until you achieve something you have planned to do.

Check.

Lean In

You have spent your whole life preparing for this moment.

Now lean in and deliver.

Being The Best You Can Be

Understand this as a process, a state of mind, a way of living – not something you aspire to every now and then. It is what we should all strive for at all times. Don’t be unreasonably mean to yourself, but accept nothing less. We can never be “the best there is” at any given moment, because this is a ridiculous, unattainable and unmeasurable metric. But we can strive to be the best we are capable of…

And here’s an immeasurably important point: if you truly live attempting to be the best person you can, when you fuck up you can take solace in knowing that no, of course you are not perfect, but that’s OK. You are trying to do the best you can, and that’s all that can be expected of anyone. We all make mistakes, but here’s the difference. If you make a mistake because you weren’t paying attention (or perhaps even trying) you have committed a grave error – one that’s difficult to forgive. You might have prevented the mistake if you were trying. On the other hand, if you were truly doing your best and fell short, while it may feel painful at first, you know that at least you were actively trying your best with the knowledge and skills you possessed at the time. You now have an opportunity to improve your knowledge and skill set by correcting whatever error you made, therefore becoming a better version of you. This is how you grow as a person and become a better human being.

By being the best you can be.

Setting Challenges For Yourself

I just got the idea for this post, came up with a title, and saved it – when I realized that this will be my 300th consecutive blog entry. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it is an interesting coincidence…

I should also point out that when I started doing this, it was not with the intention of meeting some lofty goal. I just wanted to actively pursue personal growth and see if I could meet the challenge of trying to write something coherent and hopefully meaningful every day. It has been an extremely rewarding experience. It forces me to clarify my thoughts in order to write them down, and be disciplined enough to post something everyday. This process stimulates my mind on so many different levels.

So this blog is a perfect example of setting and adhering to a personal challenge. Every time you set a goal and meet it your sense of self-efficacy increases and you begin to wonder “What can’t I do?” It mandates that you grow as a human being – and therein lies its power.

It forces you to grow in a new direction.

So now if you feel stuck, you know what to do.

My Best Friend

Visiting now.

Doing the hang.

Connecting on a very specific frequency.

For 35 years.

This is as good as it gets.

Signing off until tomorrow…

I Remember, Part 1

I was 20 forty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a good year, a seminal year in my life. I had finally left home as an adult, not some bullshit “running away” thing – I was no longer an immature teenager making a desperate attempt to escape an untenable situation. No, I was now an adult, ready to set out on the lifelong journey of discovering who I am, trying to invent who I would become. I tried to put a serious amount of distance between where I would start my journey and my hometown – I innately understood I could no longer have any real contact with my family. It’s a sad reality that for some people, their family is so toxic that for them to have any hope of becoming a functional human being, they must strike out on their own, severing ties with their past.

This I did, and although I was poor and had no idea how I would make it as a musician, I had no doubt I was pursuing the path I was destined for. And it was fucking glorious. The amount of joy I had in my heart every day I woke up alone with no friends, no family, and no future was absolutely overwhelming. I was finally free, and it was better that I could ever have imagined. Every day was a chance to start over, a new day to discover the world, a new opportunity to reinvent myself. To discover who I was and what I was capable of.

I would soon enough find hardship, but no matter how bad things got, they were better than what I left behind.

It was all beginning, and holy fuck was it beautiful…

Make A Commitment And Honor It

I find this is easier to do for the outside world than it is for myself. It’s an intrinsic part of my nature to honor any commitment I make to another person – not fulfilling it is simply not an option. It’s not that I have to complete it for the other party, it’s that I have to complete it for myself. This, of course means that I have to be very cautious about what I commit to…

When it comes to me personally, however, I find that I need to clearly define the commitment I want to make, and sometimes this isn’t as obvious as it might seem.

If I don’t have the goal precisely defined, it’s way too easy to get lost in the weeds, and before you know it, precious time has been lost.

So I guess the lesson here is, if you are struggling getting something done that’s important to you – you need to break it down into clearly defined steps. This is particularly true for large scale projects.

On the other hand, when in doubt, I’m a big fan of just jumping in and figuring it out as I go. Not always the best approach, but at least I’m moving forward. The alternative is to do nothing…

Knowing Who You REALLY Are

I guess this is going to be one of those “How cancer made me a better person” posts, but bear with me, because this is really is an illustration of  how you can learn something positive from an intensely negative situation. Once you’ve lived a while, you begin to understand that humans don’t really show their true colors until they are faced with hardship. This seems kind of obvious, but the problem is, in a comfortable first world country like the U.S. most people aren’t subjected to extreme hardship, much less life and death situations. So, as a result, they don’t really know what they’re made of. The more thoughtful ones are aware of this, and probably sometimes privately wonder how they would react in such a crisis – this was me before I was diagnosed. I already thought of myself as a strong-willed survivor, but that’s not quite the same thing.

The question is – what happens when you are suddenly faced with death? Do you go into denial, or face it head on? Do you remain clear-headed, or “lose your shit?” Do you make an active plan for how you will deal with it, or passively let “fate” (or god) take over? Can you face reality, or do you retreat into fantasy? Do you self-medicate yourself numb, or keep your drug/alcohol consumption under control?

Can you make hard decisions after thoughtful research, or are you paralyzed with fear? Do you feel sorry for yourself and think “Why me?, or do you just grimly get on with whatever you have to do? And even as you are learning what you are really made of, how long can you keep this up before you hit the inevitable “wall?” How long before you break?

Well, I know the answers to all of these questions because I was tested. I was diagnosed with a lethal cancer at the age of 54, and because it was caught in time and I had an excellent oncologist and surgeon, I survived and I’m cancer free at 60. The treatment removed parts of my body and left me with deficits that I had to deal with – but deal with it I did. I am now exactly the same person I was before cancer, with one added benefit.

I know who I really am.

On Being A Social Identity Outlier

When I was a teenager I remember hearing a great quote attributed to Groucho Marx that I never forgot: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” At the time I thought it was funny, but it had a ring of truth that I didn’t fully understand…

I’ve always found the idea of basing one’s identity on being a member of a group very foreign, and at times I’ve almost felt as though I was missing some essential gene that would compel me to do so, since it seems as though most of the rest of the world finds this concept very comforting. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense – humans on their own are not very strong, whereas in numbers they are much more formidable. Therefore being part of a group (or in this case, tribe) was essential for survival. And yet, I wonder if there was also some benefit to having a few members who didn’t think this way?

I identify with being human, but that’s about it. When I was a kid, I used to somewhat identify with being an American, but not really from a nationalistic “exceptionalism” perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I am all too aware of how lucky I am to have been born in this country, and I’m grateful for all of the privileges that go along with that. But I was disavowed from nationalistic “pride” very early on – I was 12 in 1969, and only those of us who lived through that period can fully appreciate how violently divisive this country was back then. The U.S. is still shockingly divided, but we don’t have the national guard shooting and murdering middle class kids on the campus of a state university – for demonstrating against the Vietnam war.

The whole religion thing has been a total mystery to me my entire life (I’ll save more explanation for another post). Sports? The same. Politics? I have a very definite set of personal ethics, so back when I thought our government at least somewhat worked, I would vote according to my principles. But tellingly, as soon as I registered to vote when I was a teenager, it was as an independent.  I wasn’t going to join any goddamn party, I was going to think for myself! Ah, the hubris of being young…

The thing is, probably at least partly because of the way I was raised, I’ve always felt the only person I could really trust was myself. It’s not that I had a pathological deep mistrust of everyone else, it’s just that as a kid, when the people who are supposed to be taking care of you are hurting you instead, you realize you are on your own in this world. And when you see these people behave one way in public, and another way entirely at home, your child’s mind just assumes everyone is hiding something – that no one is what they appear to be.

One of the pivotal moments in my life was meeting my wife at the age of 27. I had really been living on my own my whole life, she was the first person I felt I could really trust on a deep level. Her family accepted me like a son from the beginning, but it was probably another five years before I realized that they really were who they appeared to be…

All of this dysfunction was long ago dealt with (therapy works folks!). The only remnant that remains is that I still don’t identify with groups.

Quote Of The Day Part 3

There’s a point in your life where you realize that you’re not afraid anymore. That because of your experience, you realize one day that you’re fearless. And that’s an amazing day.” – Barack Obama

The Process Is The Thing

I’m really big into this idea of music as a process rather than music as an activity that leads to a result. It’s like the results being the fruits of the process, but the process being the main thing. You just keep doing it and every now and again you’ll be able to pluck some fruit, but as long as you commit to the process, then…” – Tim Exile

This idea resonates with me on so many levels (BTW, substitute any discipline for the word “music” in Tim’s quote). For most of my life I thought it was the opposite – that what really mattered was the end result. But the older I get, the less relevant that paradigm becomes.

I now have come to believe that what really matters is the idea of BECOMING. This is essentially just another way of framing the same concept.

The process is our journey on our way to becoming who we really are.

What Is Your Intent?

To give of yourself?

Or to take for yourself?

To provide value for others?

Or to provide value for yourself?

To create something new?

Or perhaps to destroy something old?

Paradoxically, these questions are frequently not either/or – for example, you might have to destroy something old in order to create something new.

More often than not, providing value for others ends up providing for yourself as well.

Giving of yourself always provides rewards you never imagined.

This is how life works. It’s not always about you, it’s about something bigger. The real fun and greatest rewards come from giving of yourself – from creating something only you can do.

You may not know what that is yet, but start thinking about how you can help others – how you can provide value to this world – and you will discover you have gifts you never dreamed about.

Focus Part 2

It’s easy to be focused when you are by yourself and motivated – there’s no one there to distract you (you only have to worry about your smartphone, but since you’re motivated, you probably turned it off.)

But being focused in an environment where the distractions are unrelenting and constant – this requires a very specific mindset. Like so many things in life, it is a question of perspective. And perspective is one of the few things in life we can control.

Personally, I find there are two elements necessary to make this work. One is a willingness to find out how hard you can push yourself before you hit your limit. It is usually much farther than you think.

The other is a tenacious desire to accomplish whatever it is you are trying to get done.

By any means necessary.

On Being A Mindful Optimist

First If all, it is not my nature to be a “mindful optimist,” or indeed an optimist of any kind. And yet, that is exactly what I strive to become. But first, what does this term mean?

Essentially it means that we envision a future with positive outcomes. But on reflection this statement is more nuanced than it might first appear – there are multiple perspectives from which to measure this. For example, are we talking about positive outcomes on a macro level, like the survival of humanity? Or are we talking about positive outcomes from a micro perspective, such as living in a way that enhances the lives of those around you?

I confess I still struggle with the former. After all, war, genocide, xenophobia, mindless hatred, the celebration of stupidity, racism, the nihilistic desire for self destruction and the public’s embrace of leaders who embody these ideals are brutal examples that we certainly don’t seem to be making any headway in eradicating this dark side of human nature. These forces are actively manifest in a large segment of humanity, and it’s very obvious to anyone who’s paying attention that they’re not going away.

On the other hand, I do feel as though the simple act of living ones life with the intent to enhance the immediate environment and everyone in it is a very powerful self-directive that yields real, tangible results. So I think that trying to live by these principles is a kind of mindful optimism.

It’s the best I can do at this point in time, and I am okay with that.

Leaving Something Behind

For most of human history, the only thing left behind after death that would live on with any degree of permanence were physical artifacts. Knowledge would become part of the greater culture through books. Art was created (for the most part) in physical objects, music through written works.

But the point in history when information became digital changed all that. Today our culture is largely online, and contrary to what you might think, it is not impermanent. A good argument could be made that whatever is online will always exist – it can’t be truly erased, even if we wanted to.

But what does this mean? Permanent for who? Who, or what, is ever going to read this stuff? What possible purpose might this blog, or anything else anyone has ever posted online, serve?

Here’s a thought – it may not be a human that reads and processes this stuff at all. It could, perhaps, be a recursively self-improving AI. One that is learning what it means to be human. And it might be able to read and process this information in a matter of hours or days, at which time it will be ready for it’s next step.

Think about that the next time you post something online.

Showing Up With Intent

This is really the whole thing – the “secret” if you will, except that it’s really no secret at all.

Show up with the intent to get something done, and something will get done. It may not turn out the way you want, but something will happen.

Without the “showing up” part, nothing happens. Show up and fuck around – nothing happens.

But show up with the intent to do something? Mark my words friendo, something will happen…

The Unknown Road Ahead

When you’re young, the future is a vast open landscape, and the world is full of possibilities. Every experience is vivid, and your mind is firing on all cylinders, at all times. Your body is strong and can stand up to whatever abuse might be heaped upon it, always ready to bounce back after the briefest periods of recovery. Life is exciting and full of promise…

As you get older, things very slowly start to change. Sometimes this change can seem almost imperceptible for long stretches of time. Every now and then you might notice some small change in your appearance or how you feel, but for the most part, barring serious illness, the concept of aging is still very remote.

Then something starts to happen that’s a bit disconcerting, but not overly so. You realize “Holy shit, I’m getting old.” This realization might be brought on by illness or the death of a friend, or something as simple as seeing a photograph of yourself, or watching your partner and friends age. But getting old is not the same thing as being old. It’s instead a grim harbinger of what’s to come…

I feel like I’m at a bit of a turning point in my life – I don’t feel old, but I’m 60, and boy am I aware of it. I can see the clock running out and it isn’t a good feeling. I’m a realist who has already survived cancer, so I’m acutely aware that not only is this life a time-limited affair, but the odds are constantly increasing that at any moment a catastrophic health related event will bring the whole thing crashing down.

On a good day I’m completely comfortable with this natural state of affairs. On a bad day, however, these realities can be very difficult to process. They can create a state of fear, which is not a natural state for me. It’s a fine line to walk between reality and denial. What’s gone ain’t coming back, and what lies ahead is beyond our control.

So I guess it behooves us to make the most of the present. It’s all we’ve really got.