If You’re Not Enjoying the Little Things, You’re Failing

Enjoy Little Things Failing

It’s about 7 o’clock. The sun’s shining into our living room. The window’s open. A gentle breeze is wafting through. Birds are chirping. The American Dollar is playing lightly on Pandora. And I’m sitting here with my wife, reveling in the simplicity of this wonderful moment.

Life is cluttered. Things to do, people to see, meetings to be had, kids to feed, spouses to nurture, animals to take care of, books to read, events to attend, dinner parties to throw. Much like the last sentence, there’s often too much going on. One of the great crimes of life is becoming so enveloped by everything going on that we miss out – yes, you’re missing out – on little joys found in the mundane.

There are sociological, psychological, biological, and neurological reasons why it’s good to relax, to stop and smell the roses regularly. Aside from all of that, if you’re too caught up in the rigmarole of your life to slow down long enough to actually taste the coffee you’re funneling, you’re missing the point.

We’re given emotions: happy, sad, stressed, bedraggled, exuberant. We’re given senses: sight, smell, touch, etc. We feel things. Life isn’t just about survival, but thriving. It’s about using those feelings and those senses innate in us to experience the universe in all its infinite, beautiful detail.

If you’re not stopping to enjoy the little things, you can’t be a fulfilled person. You’re neglected traits and genes that allow you to, well, be filled with joy! Aspects of your character which have developed in you so that you can be the most and the best and the happiest [whatever] you want!

If you’re not enjoying the little things, you can’t be benefitting others and the world in any tangible or lasting way. You’re too focused on one thing or a few to experience the big picture.

Appreciation comes in the details. Just ask any architect or musician about why they admire whoever they admire. Happiness comes with finding contentment in the small things of everyday, in the laughter of loves ones, a stranger’s charity, or a sunset.

If you’re not paying attention to all the beautiful, wonderful things around you in nature and that people are doing everyday, you’re missing out. If you’re not enjoying the little things, you’re failing.

All Advice is Autobiographical, and Why That Matters

All Advice Autobiographical Why That Matters

We are each the sum of our experiences and decisions. We’re more than that, too, of course. We’re living, breathing beings with unique personalities. But our opinions, beliefs, desires, etc. are generally based around our experiences. What we experience is according to our decisions, and the decisions of those around us, over time.

Perhaps you are appalled by baked spaghetti because it was once your last meal before catching a stomach virus. If you go to a restaurant, you’ll recommend some other entrée, because your experience has affected your opinion of that dish.

It’s possible that you and your mother used to take long walks together to talk through life, share laughs, and generally de-stress. For you, taking walks is one of the best ways to relax and rejuvenate, and so you recommend that others take long walks to feel better as well.

Let’s say you’ve gone through a significant business negotiation, only to find out later that your partner screwed you over, and left you hung out to dry. You’ll likely steer others away from going through a similar business negotiation, because you wouldn’t want anyone else to get burned like you did.

We could keep going through case after case till the cows come home, but let’s suffice it to say that any advice you or I or anyone else gives is based on our own experiences in that area, along with anything else we might have heard or learned about it. That is to say, all advice is inherently autobiographical. It’s one person sharing their own opinion based on their own life.

We want to learn from others. We want to be better off, avoid mistakes, and set ourselves up for great things. We need to learn from others to do this, because if we never learned from anyone else, we would only learn from our own decisions, which would prove disastrous.

But in learning from others, heeding their advice, and following their examples, we have to be careful. We have to keep in mind that their advice is based on what happened in their life, and might not apply as well to our own.

Because advice is autobiographical, one person’s bad experience can also lead to bad advice. For instance, one person could have had a bad marriage experience. They might tell you not to get married based on that bad experience. But their experience has nothing to do with your life and what’s right for you.

One person could have invested early in a company that went on to explode. That doesn’t mean you should throw all your money into the next company with similar characteristics.

All advice is autobiographical. The advice or expertise offered by any given person will be based on what they’ve learned and gone through. This is great, because it gives us each opportunities to learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. But there’s a downside, too, in that advice and expertise. Because it’s intrinsically subjective, it isn’t always right or the best choice for us in our situation.

You have to be able to think for yourself, to do your own research, and weigh your own preferences and opinions. You can’t go through life with an attitude of “I heard this from so-and-so, therefore I’m going to do that.”

At the end of the day, we are each responsible for every decision (or indecision) we make. It’s important to learn from others where we can, but we also have to use our own measures before making decisions or following advice that will directly affect our lives, and the lives of those around us.

Who Do You Want Your Doppelgänger to Be?

We Are Each Our Own Doppelganger

Who you are now is a different person than who you were in the past. The person you will eventually become is different than the person you are today. We carry the same body our entire lives, but at various stages we act differently, present ourselves differently, value and want different things. We are each our own doppelgänger.

How interesting is it to think of yourself like that?

I wish I could take credit for the thought. It’s one of the few pseudo-philosophical moments I appreciate by Josh Radnor’s character Ted on How I Met Your Mother. The 5th season closes with Ted and Robin reminiscing on how much they’ve changed over the last five years. Who they each were five years ago are just images of who they are now, preserved only through memories. They look the same, but they’re totally different people. They are their own doppelgängers.

We change a lot from year to year. Particularly if, like me, you’re going through that terrifying stage of emerging adulthood. It’s really interesting to think about how much we change. Coming out of college, for instance, I was some pompous kid hellbent on being successful, rich, and well-liked in whatever community I would become a part of.

About two-and-a-half years later, those things still sound nice, but I’m really focused on becoming the best [whatever] I can be – writer, digital marketer, husband, mobile trend analyst, etc. I act differently, I want different things, and I make choices for different reasons. I’m a different person than who I was back then.

A few more years down the road, my focus and behaviors will have changed again. Maybe I’ll intentionally put more efforts into social relationships. Maybe I’ll have achieved something. Maybe I’ll be a father. Maybe I’ll be in a different role. Maybe I’ll be doing the same things, but be several years wiser about them. Whatever happens, who I am today – who we each are today, will just be images, doppelgängers, of who we’ll be then.

It’s very interesting to think about our lives like this! The question that follows is: What do you want to become? Do you want to grow in your faith? Have a more prestigious career? Become more courageous? Develop your leadership abilities? Who do you want your doppelgänger to be? And what are you doing to get there?

How Do Creatives Become Famous? Like This

How Do Creatives Become Famous Like This

Be honest. You don’t create for the sake of art. You create because you enjoy it, you have some skill with it, and you want to use those abilities to support yourself, perhaps even become a household name.

I’m sure money, fame, and what luxuries come with it have an effect as well. Every creative wants to make it to the top. If you’re too high-minded to believe that, please explain why so many people rake in money teaching other creatives to grow explosively.

There’s a common belief that if you create quality work, people will find you. You just need to focus on writing the best book, making the best music, and generally creating the best [whatever] you’re capable of. It’s a rather noble stance.

Be the best you can be, and people will notice. It works on a small scale, for those close to you. But if you want to become wealthy and famous, and be able to live whatever life you want to live, this theory doesn’t do much for you.

How does anyone become famous? They get recognized. The quality of what you create, while important, has little to do with becoming a household name. People have discover you. They have to realize you and your great work actually exist!

The Kardashians/Jenners and the Damn Daniel duo got famous for what? A leaked video and a mildly humorous wardrobe analysis. For every famous musician, there’s 10 absolutely astounding musicians still playing in neighborhood dives.

You don’t become famous be being great at something. You become famous by putting yourself out there. By taking what you’ve created and sticking it in front of as many eyes and ears as you can possibly find. You become a household name by physically placing your name into every household (or smartphone). Thankfully, the internet makes this relatively easy, if you play your cards right.

If you want to become a famous creative, it’s good for you to continually hone your craft. But to make it big, you’ve got to be recognized and discovered, particularly by people in important roles. You’ve got to pitch everyone you can, build your social media profile(s), get into as many shows and galleries as you can find, and throw your name as far out there as you can. Before you can make it big, you have to make yourself a public figure.

Sadly, history and culture tell us that you can be great at something without being recognized for it. You can also be mediocre and have everyone love you. Sure, some of it’s marketing. But if you want to become a famous creative, keep getting better at what you do, and place what you do in front of everyone.

The Pros and Cons of Creating Everyday

Pros and Cons of Creating Everyday

Like many, I create everyday. It’s not something I just have to do, lest my creative spirit explode. Creating everyday is a very intentional effort, something I know I’ve got to do to get where I want to go. Anytime you do the same thing everyday, you’re going to analyze that act constantly. You’ll see there’s both positives and negatives.

PRO: When you create everyday, you’re going to get better at what you do. Even if you have poor techniques or make the same mistakes over and over (which you obviously want to avoid), you’re going to improve much faster than if you weren’t creating everyday.

It takes about 10,000 hours of doing anything to become great at it (an expert that stands out above the rest). The sooner you reach 10,000 hours worth of practicing your craft, the better your career will be. Creating everyday helps you get there faster.

CON: Creating all the time can be enjoyable. But if you’re creating, you’re not doing something else. That means other things you value and enjoy will fall by the wayside. For me that means I read less (barely at all now), and spend less time on outdoor activities. I don’t spend much time with friends, or binge watching the latest Netflix hits, either.

All of these would be really enjoyable, but they have to be sacrificed to make time for creating. It can feel a bit limiting if (as in my case) you work, write, sleep, repeat everyday.

PRO: Doing something everyday gives you the opportunity to make a difference everyday. At least, it does if you make your creations public. Should I write something positive or motivational, there’s always a chance to brighten someone’s spirit. Should I write on a lifehack, there’s the opportunity to improve someone’s routine. This goes a long way towards fulfillment!

CON: It’s never a stretch to feel like you keep working, keeping creating, and just aren’t getting anywhere. Were I to only sit down and create every, say, third day, there’s a chance I would feel better and better about my work each time. Not so when you’re doing it everyday. There’s not enough room for contrast or comparison.

It’s similar to exercising and losing weight. You can’t really tell a difference day to day, but if you look at it month over month, you see you’ve improved by leaps and bounds (hopefully). When you’re creating everyday, you’re often pressed for time and focus. You end up questioning whether this thing you’re creating is good enough for others to see. The rigmarole can be rather dispiriting.

All in all, the pros of growth and making a difference, in my opinion, outweigh the cons of toilsome sacrifice. In fact, the sacrifice and long hours might make the end results that much sweeter. If you’re a creative, or simply trying to improve at one thing or another, you need to be doing it everyday. It’s not always easy, but it does get easier. You will get better, and you’ll look back months down the road thankful that you stuck to it.

Learning Your Gifts & Understanding Where You Belong

Learning Your Gifts Understanding Where You Belong

Everyone wants to feel secure. Everyone wants to feel that they have something worth contributing. Everyone wants to belong. Few have a firm grasp on where they should be, or what they should be doing. And that’s okay!

A past president of my Alma Mater would regularly give his “Big C, little c” speech (something I’m grateful for looking back). The speech was about calling. Everyone’s searching for their calling, for where their gifts and skill sets belong to do the most good and allow for the most personal fulfillment.

Everyone has the same Big C calling: to disciple others, be a positive influence, and create a better world. This is the overarching theme of one’s life. The ways in which you fulfill your Big C calling are different for everyone, and typically change several (dozen) times over a lifespan. This is your little c calling: where you’re able to belong and contribute on a daily basis using your gifts and skill sets.

Your little c calling could be in real estate, doing quality business and helping families establish their lives. It could be being a stay at home parent, nurturing and developing the next generation. It could be being an average person doing their best daily and shining a light for others. It could be just about anything!

For instance, I’ve been wanting to write more and better, and for some time was freaking out about what I could actually do with that. Right now, I feel that my little c calling is bringing others up through writing. I’ve only embraced this recently, and I’m sure it will change sooner than I’d like!

We all have our own individual gifts, skill sets, and personalities. That means a little c calling that’s perfect for one person is going to be absolutely terrible for another. You don’t need to feel pressured to live up to somebody else’s expectations of what’s right for you.

You’re not always going to know what your little c calling is, or what you should be doing in however many years down the road. And that’s okay! While you’re searching, know that you’re not the only one who feels uneasy about where they should be or what they should be doing.

In all cases, know that you do have the abilities to fulfill your Big C calling in some way or another: to lift others up, to be a positive influence, to disciple, to help others grow, and to improve the world in however small or large a way that’s right for you. It’s okay not to know what you’re supposed to be doing right this second. It will come.

What to Do When People Laugh at Your Dreams

What to Do When People Laugh at Your Dreams

Face it. People are going to mock your goals and dreams at some point or another. That doesn’t mean they’re right. That doesn’t mean your ideas are nonsense. It does mean that you need to cut those people out of your life.

One of the things I’m most grateful for is how supportive my family has always been. I’ve had several dreams that others have literally scoffed at. But not my family. One farfetched idea after the other, they would say, “If that’s what you want to do, do it. Make it happen.” How awesome is that?

This mindset that you can do whatever you want, and that it’s okay to do what you want as long as you’re doing it to the best of your ability, has done more than a little in shaping how I view the world. It affects everything I write, and how I’m able to influence others. What this support has helped me realize is that the last thing you need in your life is someone who won’t build you up.

You can have a best friend, who you obviously get along with immensely well. If you, let’s say, want to be a comedian, and they think that’s stupid, they don’t deserve your company. If you have a subjectively awesome startup business idea, and a friend or acquaintance thinks your idea would never work, drop them. Rather than tearing us down, we each need people in our lives who will say, “Okay, so how are you going to make that happen?”

At all times and in all situations, you need supportive people around you to grow. You need the people you spend time with to be influences you can learn from and emulate. If you share a dream or goal with someone, and they laugh, scoff, demean, or play down your aspirations, they don’t fit the criteria. They’re not who you need in your life, no matter how close you might be.

When people laugh at your dreams, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It also doesn’t give you permission to be rude back to them. But it does provide an opportunity for you to politely part ways. You deserve better.

How Can Discipline Become Easy?

How Can Discipline Become Easy

Creating a new positive habit might be one of the most difficult struggles everyone faces regularly. In order to create a new habit, you have to change an existing habit, which isn’t easy. It’s like driving down a dirt road. Every time you do something, it makes an impression.

As you keep doing it, those impressions get deeper and deeper. Eventually they turn into ruts that are incredibly difficult to drive out of. The good news is that once you’ve created a rut with the right habit, it’s easy to stay in that rut, to keep doing the same good thing.

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend and advisor. This guy works 7am-6pm daily. He works long hours, because that’s just what he does. Towards the end of our time, he paid me a compliment. “I’m proud to see that discipline to write everyday on top of doing a startup.” Obviously I was flattered. To be honest, I was more caught off-guard.

I write every evening, post and share every morning. That’s just what I do. I’ve only been writing in this capacity for six or seven weeks, but it’s become a habit that’s easy to keep up with. When I first started, it was a real struggle. Who has motivation at 9pm after a full work day? But I knew it was something I needed to do, so I’d force myself to sit and write every night, whether I wanted to or not. It took discipline, but only for a couple weeks.

In fact, two weeks (give or take) is how long the experts say it takes to develop a habit. Now, writing every night is just something I do, no questions asked. This exact same situation happens (or can) for anyone.

Everyone knows that one person who exercises seven days a week. We look at these people and think, “Man, I wish I had their discipline!” It’s true, what they’re doing takes discipline. But ask any person who does the same thing everyday, and they’ll all give you the same response with a half shrug: It’s just what I do.

It takes about two weeks to develop a habit, two weeks of significant discipline. When you’re building a habit, when you’re trying to start doing something new everyday, don’t think of it as something you have to do everyday. Think of it as needing discipline for just two weeks. Whatever you’re trying to do will become significantly easier. Then it becomes a habit that you continually reinforce. Then it’s just what you do.

Discouragement Is Only as Bad as You Let It Be

Discouragement Is Only as Bad as You Let It Be

Bad things are going to happen to you. You’re not always going to deserve them. Sometimes you’ll work your tail off and feel as though it’s all for nothing. There are going to be times when you feel discouraged, and occasionally you’ll feel really terrible. But that’s all okay, because you’re still in control.

The first time I publicly stated I wanted to make a living off of writing and doing what I love, I got one comment. It was a page-long rant from some random person about how pathetic and infuriating I was for “not working hard” like everyone else.

I’m not going to lie. It stung a bit. I was rather discouraged about writing for no less than a few weeks. You all have a similar story to share. You probably have dozens! The common thread between each of these stories is that you overcame that discouragement. Maybe it was instant, maybe God only knows how long it took. But you got through it.

Intentional positive thinking is a very powerful mental practice. Those who practice it tend to be more productive at work (by 12%), live longer, and report higher satisfaction in life (regardless of age, income, or ethnicity).

When a situation occurs – self-inflicted or otherwise – that leaves you discouraged, you can’t simply flip a switch and feel better. But you can choose to insert positive thoughts to help you overcome whatever discouragement may find you.

There’s a psychotherapy technique called cognitive restructuring. The essence is that when a negative thought is queued, you force yourself to think of something different, something positive. Through this, you can better overcome discouragement and other negative thoughts.

Discouragement is prevalent in each person’s life. Something’s going to get you down. But nothing has to be entirely life-ruining. You can choose to insert positivity into any and every situation. You can choose to work towards feeling better, even happy! Discouragement is only as bad as you let it be.

How to Add Value to Anyone, Whatever You Do

How to Add Value to Anyone Whatever You Do

People want to be around those who add value. They want to spend time with, watch, read, and learn from others who make a meaningful contribution to their lives. The beautiful thing about this phenomenon is that anyone can add value! Though, it helps to know what “value” means.

I handle content (articles, social media, marketing, etc.) for Text Request. In the content marketing world, “value” means a piece of information that a consumer would not have otherwise had. Adding value, then, is giving something that will help a consumer through their buying journey, or to do their job better. But I think it applies more generally to everyone else, too.

Adding value to someone’s day could be giving them a few simple words of encouragement. It could be sharing a hilarious video with a friend to brighten their day. It could be providing insight into another’s career or personal life. Adding value, in essence, is helping someone enjoy their life, and enabling them to be a fulfilled person.

We can all do that! In fact, people generally want to spend their time around others who will help build them up! You should do that. Who really wants to feel bad, or to be around someone who doesn’t add value? That’s not good for anyone.

I’m stumped to find a better phrase here. It’s really cool how we all have opportunities everyday to add value to others’ lives. The only question is: How will you do it? How will you brighten someone’s day? How will you lift them up? How will you help another be the best they can be? How will you add value?