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Trim Tabs – One Of The Keys To A Great Life

I’ve heard Jeff Bridges talk about this at least twice, and both times it has resonated with me deeply. Channeling Buckminster Fuller, Bridges makes an analogy about making big changes in life to how large ships use trim tabs. Basically, the little rudder on a big boat loves the big rider, which turns the boat. I think he is on to something here, maybe one of the keys to a great life.

All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man! Towards love, creating a healthy planet for all of us.

Jeff Bridges

A Great Life Is Possible

When I feel overwhelmed, which happens a lot lately during COVID-19, it can sometimes seem hopeless. But I refuse to fall into negative self-talk because I know where that leads. I get anxious and depressed. I go dark. I become insufferable. It sucks for me and for everyone around me. It’s not fun.

But the analogy holds. It frames things in a way that feels empowering. As if I can handle my shit. One thing at a time. Small changes. Keep going. Don’t quit. Come with love. Always. That’s the key to a great life.

I plan to write soon about a dense, strange book called “My Big Toe,” by Thomas Campbell, eventually. His big theory about everything (aka Big Toe), talks a lot about evolution, consciousness, and love. From my simple understanding, consciousness itself is evolving, albeit slowly. Small, positive changes lead to more small positive changes. One after another, Darwin style.

Changes that are positive win, negative ones lose (and go extinct). Over the millennia, these little wins add up. We get ever sophisticated forms of life, consciousness and societies. When I try to wrap my head around this, I once again revisit Fuller’s trim tabs.

In order to stay grounded, I try to stay focused on my own life. My own decisions. If there is free will (is there?), then the decisions I make matter. When I make them with love and with my big self, I evolve positively. When I think small, and make decisions grounded in my ego, that’s me moving in the wrong direction, trying to move the big tab, without first moving the trim tab.

So I guess, the key to a great life is small changes, made with love. Over and over again, endlessly. Relentlessly. Driving towards a great life.

Life is pain

Mr. Rogers once said “There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.” This has never been more true than during life with coronavirus.

As I think about my own journey, this quote brings me a deep sense of satisfaction, and understanding about my own anxiety in my own life. It helps me reframe my concerns about my job, my family, money, my health, your health, and life as we knew it.

The recurring theme for me in my own experience is the concept of impermanence. As I’ve learned from reading the Stoics and other gurus, I’ve come to understand that the phrase “this too shall” pass is a critical one to understanding and managing my sense of self and my life.

It’s a constant battle to manage feelings of hopelessness and change all around us. I try not to watch the news, I read fiction, and I stay busy at work. But somehow it’s not enough. Somehow, this feels even bigger than anything I’ve experienced before. It feels like the entire world is shifting In a way that I don’t completely understand yet.

So I feel as if all I can do is think about how everything is impermanent. How everything will change. How one day all of this will be gone. Just as it’s always been, and is a shop and as it shall always be.

Building on Mr. Rogers Epicurious once said: “Pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to that in your imagination.” Yet again, I am to understand and I must embrace my pain and my anxiety in order to survive.

Our universe and everything in it are indeed impermanent. Things, (everything), comes and goes. I will be gone, you will be gone. The universe itself will one day be gone.

Trying to escape is not the right strategy, it is just fooling yourself. Today, as every day, the challenge is to be present. To embrace impermanence is to embrace our lives, and to embrace our moments here together. Stay well, be well. Be present.

Hell yes! or no F_cking way!

Hell yes, or no way. Essentialism to the rescue!

I’ve read the incredible book “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown 3 times now, and each time, my (digital) copy gets more and more highlighted. It’s a great read, and one with an incredible amount of wisdom, great ideas, and perspective. Reading it has enriched my life immensely. My biggest and most challenging takeaway is the idea of “Hell yes, or no way.”

Essentialism

If you haven’t read it, I recommend you watch any of the excellent videos that outline the basic concepts including hearing it right from Greg’s mouth in a Google talk:

“No more yes, it’s either a ‘Hell, Yeah!” or no.” #Essentialism— Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) January 15, 2016

Essentialism, for me works great for small, simple decisions such as:

  • should I work out?
  • should eat that 3rd slice of pizza?
  • should I read this book or that book

But it breaks down for me when I try to apply it to big decisions such as:

  • should I invest in becoming a better or published writer?
  • should I change careers, go back to school or keep doing what I’m doing
  • am living my best life, and if not, what’s that even mean?

I think a big part of the problem is that I’ve been unwilling to be completely honest with myself. Saying hell yea to something life-changing has ramifications that go far beyond my own personal impact.

As an example, I’ve written two books (one a YA-Sci Fi thing, the other a memoir), and I’m stuck inside my head. Do I try to improve them with the help of an editor and finish that journey, or do I leave writing as a hobby and a fun creative pursuit? I honestly don’t know.

The truth is, part of me is scared.

Shit. Even as I wrote that sentence I sort of figured out something important. Trite as it is, that saying “do what scares you most” may very well apply here.

Hell yes, or no way. Eh?

Dance and sing and be happy!

Why Your Life Is Not A Journey

I came across this when a friend posted it to Facebook. It grabbed me and SLAMMED me down hard.  This video “Why Your Life Is Not A Journey” includes the editors favorite Alan Watts quotes – my new favorite being the bit about missing the point the whole way along (skip to 3:13). I’ve always felt as if I were doing something wrong or missing some essential truth.

Life is not a journey… and you were supposed to be dancing!

When Watts says “It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or dance” I feel ashamed of my own behavior. I feel ashamed and sorry for myself. For not laughing more. Or Dancing more (or at all). For not  crying, or feeling more things more deeply.

The quote hit me somewhere very deeply. I am sure it’s because it’s true. I’ve taken life entirely too seriously – like an epic slog rather than the joyous, beautiful thing it was meant to be.

Did you watch it? What did you think?

Your brain is lying to you and preventing you from finding the right path in life

Your brain is lying to you and preventing you from finding the right path in life

It’s nuts what BULLSHIT your brain tells you to get you to act or think something. My latest thing is worrying about money when I’m 90 – assuming I even make it that far. I ran some errands earlier to restock on allergy medicine and on the way, I listened to Seth Godin’s guest appearance on the Tim Ferris podcast. As usual, Seth nails point after point about branding, business education and life.

Your brain is lying. It always does that

One of the things Seth talks a lot about is why – knowing your purpose and understanding what it is you are contributing to the world. Wow, I have struggled with that forever! What am I here for? What’s my mission? What am I contributing to this world or am I just taking up space? Part of the answer for me is my family, being a great dad, husband, and son  but what is my greater good exactly?

One might think that my ~10 years in the non-profit world would have led to some sense of purpose. But I was either too disconnected, too asleep or too numb to notice and that time has passed. I didn’t find myself or my purpose inside a non-profit which is too bad because there is so much good work to be done.

So after the past 2 years transformation, meditation, tai-chi and reflection I’m once again thinking about this question of purpose. Now that I’ve woken the hell up a bit, what’s next?

What’s the right path in life?

Can I find fulfillment and joy in simply being present and alive and taking things as they come? I feel anxious about that because I have so many professional ambitions – most of it related to money I’m sure. And titles and power.

And yet thankfully, something inside me is telling me to slow down and that the idea of finding fulfillment and joy in being present is the right answer. My ambition has led to hell. For me, it’s been a road paved with pain and suffering – and more importantly, a road I’ve already been down multiple times. Maybe I’ll actually ignore my damn dirty lying brain, get out of my head and into my heart this time.

Maybe this time, I’ll try something different. Maybe this time, I’ll actually ignore my damn dirty lying brain, get out of my head and into my heart. Wouldn’t that be a change!

What about you – is your brain liar like mine?