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The Pain Of Doing What You Love

I love the do what you love mantra. Gurus pounding their fists on tables saying do what you love right this moment so you can establish it as the thing you keep doing, the thing you do more of.

But what if there are painful reminders attached to what you love? Deep wounds which leave you completely paralyzed? Do you do more of something you love which has hurt you tremendously?

I think we have to do more of what we love even if we are hurt in the process. But not the exact same type of more.

If your passion or love died off at some point because the baggage of failing at it attached itself to your identity, stop this very moment confusing that failure with your identity. It’s not who you are at all. You just didn’t get it the first, second, or seventeenth time around. But if it is something you love tremendously then it is all the more reason to keep going further and see what you can do differently the next time around. Not to pack up and quit all together.

We shouldn’t place ourselves in the same scenarios or with the same people which resulted in the wounds either. It is really tough if the wounding came from people close to us, or people in general for that matter. It sucks because now we begin to attach the longevity and livelihood of our passions to people who are not us. They are not us. You are you.

And if the people are close to you then it presents a bit of a challenge moving forward for sure, but it must be forward movement. If the people are not close to you anymore, then allow this distance to be the ultimate signal that your object of love, the thing you love to do so much, doesn’t have to be attributed with them anymore.

The mind sucks at this because it thinks we are going to carry these people and those failings with us forever. But if they wounded our passion and they are not in our lives anymore, start a new forward momentum. They are not in our lives anymore. If they are people who are in our lives still, we have to be incredibly intentional by sitting down and taking the time to create boundaries between the amazing things we want to do and the people who have hurt those things. It has to be a therapeutic separation. Otherwise we will carry around a blurred future vision of what we love to do mixed with the pain inflicted by others.

We have to envision a future where, by the work we put in today, we inch closer to the incredible pursuits we have plastered to our hearts. The very things we love to do. The plaster, after all, is holding our damaged hearts together.

Pete & Pete: Daylight Savings Time Experts

There’s an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete titled Time Tunnel. It is one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite childhood shows. In the episode, brothers Big Pete and Little Pete explain how every daylight savings night they take seriously the opportunity to travel back in time to relive the hour that just went by.

As a ten year old kid I was dumbfounded not at the idea we actually travel through time twice a year, but that I had never utilized fall back for this purpose: go back in time for an hour and make amends with how poorly you might have spent that hour. Or how great you spent it. Or just do it again. We are actually gifted a re-do annually.

Time_Tunnel
From Welcome Back Artie

If I am really good at one thing, like, I can put a flag on something and claim this is my territory and I just kill at it, it would be reflection. It’s not just because I studied history as an undergraduate, but because I study my past all the time. I am always reflecting. Even as a ten year old kid I recall writing journals with a sort of sacredness to the practice of reflecting on the day or big moment that just occurred.

I almost would charge myself with using too much of my present time’s energy towards reflection on my past. There is a balance of course. The practice of looking back at one’s mistakes, one’s victories, or just anything random from the past is an excellent discipline helping re-orient one’s self as to who they are and how’d they get here to the present.

We easily lose sight of how we got to the present. When we do we allow false narratives to hijack the truth of how we arrived in our present situation. By reflecting on the past in order to help course correct our present, we do a good service for ourselves by mentally confirming what actually happened versus what might have happened.

False narratives fill the void quickly and become terrible baggage, positive or negative false narratives the same, because it’s simply not how we got to the present. What we hope for, what I at least hope for with this exercise of intentional reflection, is to find the pivot points which were key and realize what I should or should not do the next time around.

But now I propose we shift this discipline of reflection forward to the future itself and time travel backwards to our present. What happens when we have the vision of our future self telling our present self how we got to our future condition? Couldn’t we use this information to engineer ourselves towards our future self?

What happens is a life-hack so powerful it is frightening when you embrace this exercise fully. The key is taking the same emotional ride when reflecting on a past event in the present, and transferring this same exercise to your future self reflecting on your present self.

Author Tim Ferriss stumbled upon this accidentally when he wrote a piece of fiction. It was a short story “about going skiing, retiring to the ski lodge to sip hot chocolate and wine, and ending up seated across the table from a wise old stranger….this stranger turns out to be my future self. It was a fun story to write, but – and this sounds a bit weird – I also got a lot of actionable, specific advice by going through the exercise. When I put my pen down, I was somewhat puzzled and thought, “I don’t know what I just did there, but it seems like a funky magic trick.”” (Tools of Titans, 443). His future self essentially encourages his present to get to his future self. It was a life-hack of epic proportions.

We are blessed with the incredible opportunity of having another day today. What we do with today will determine our future. Well duh! But I don’t believe we live presently aware enough most of the time to know we are defining our future moment by moment, choice by choice. We get to carve out maybe an inch or two of progress right now in this very moment, progressing towards a future self we desire.

The total mind blowing aspect to this visualization is to take the same clarity we get from looking at our past right now, and transfer this clarity to the future self looking at our current self. We end up feeling we have a better grip at how to handle bad or good things that happened in our past and what we can do to move forward.

By applying this same rush of optimism having seen the future for a moment, even if it is in Pete & Pete’s case only for a mere hour, we unlock the gravity of the powerful tool we posses. Our actions right now determine our future.

You get the opportunity to correct your future self. You get the opportunity to live out the good version of your future self. Right this moment, you can make the first positive incremental move towards who you need to become.

We all get the opportunity to go back in time. Pete & Pete were onto something every autumn.

Dying Too Fast

You are killing yourself when you intentionally stop doing things you are good at and enjoy doing. There is no way to soften the language. You are allowing a part of yourself to suffocate slowly. Death may not come tomorrow but it’s accelerated now.

I know. I saw the results up close and personal.

For reasons I am only scratching the surface in understanding, I stuffed things I enjoyed inside a ‘to-do-later’ box. Of course the intentions were to open the box when convenient. Maybe after I earned X amount of dollars. Maybe when I gained middle management status type security. Probably by the time I forgot what I liked and was good at all together.

The side effects of this? Well you end up having to fill your void of what you love with something. I got real fat, I didn’t personally grow, and I used my ‘free-time’ and those X dollars on things I ‘liked’ such as video games, beer halls, and fast food lines.

I’ve conducted a lot of research on this recently, having read several people who express a very similar message: most of us end up placing things in a box we had a child-like faith and love for. Things we scoff at now because we don’t think we are that good at it. Even though we are good at it. Things we deeply love.

Some of the most common themes in explaining this curious behavior are the following:

We are most afraid of what we love.

It sounds counter-intuitive, and if you are afraid of spiders you may have a point, you actually don’t love spiders. But what several authors have pointed out which is true is we are afraid of failing at what we most love.

In a vain attempt of keeping ourselves safe, we preserve our current state of having never risked anything in order to not experience potential ridicule messing up something we love. It’s kind of like plastic covering your couches to prevent people from sitting on them. Seriously, what on earth is going on there.

We can’t do what we loved and were good at doing as kids because we are not kids anymore.

Well, right. But the problem with that line of thinking is you stop at applying the reasons why you would flip through baseball cards for hours, diligently categorizing them by card number, memorizing the patterns of each page as you flip through the thick binder because of your photographic memory, and being pleased Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire’s rookie cards are in your collection (I’m a child of the 90’s, so much hope in all those pure home-runs paying for college).

Unless you own a card shop and need to flip through baseball cards still, that’s not what you are suppose to be doing now. You are suppose to be categorizing items, putting them in their proper place, creating order out of mess, recalling things with your photographic memory and being an on demand human Google resource by putting ideas together.

We have created a mess by now and are slogging through triage just to maintain.

Sure. But. Here is an incredible discovery in the midst of triage. If you start piece by piece, a moment here and there, to let back in the thing you love so much and are good at, it not only starts to establish itself again but actually helps in the process of triage.

So we’ve made a mess by taking the wrong career path, or creating obligations we must tend to (ahem, creating offspring), or signing up to volunteer for things society or someone outside our selves said was a good thing to sign up and commit time and energy to. In the midst of all that, you have to intentionally carve out time (which you have if you actually love the thing) to get what you love going again.

Or better yet. You start applying what you love and are naturally good at to the commitments you’ve made. They may be not ideal obligations, but today is literally the time to start applying what you love to do towards what you do now. Maybe your kids never knew you were a woodworker until you pick it back up and teach them how to use a wood lathe.


If you don’t pick whatever your ‘it’ is back up, you might as well hire a woodworker to build your casket. You’ve essentially said no to living out what you are good at and love.

Stop dying by doing. Become a kid again. Put it to practice even in the middle of the mess you are in.

The Experts Said I Was Not Good Enough

The jazz guitar professor said I was not good enough to enter the jazz band in college.

The Jewish history professor said my writing reads like I was being tortured while writing.

So why didn’t I disregard their opinions? Others seem to do it all the time and move along from rejection until someone else says yes.

Or they bear down and practice ten times more to get better at it.

They become more determined than ever they are a jazz guitarist by proving the professor wrong the next time they meet.

They hear what the history professor is saying. Even to the point of agreement over the sentiment that writing is a form of torture. But then they sit down and write anything and everything that comes to mind for two straight weeks in order to practice writing.

I, however, would shut down and close up shop. They are the experts. They must be right.

But not anymore. Never again.

Here I am blogging because no one has to give you permission to blog. You just start writing. No one gives you permission to read a ton of influential books in a very short time frame. You just read them, and reading improves your writing exponentially (it really does).

And then get this. Writing continuously over and over and over makes you a better writer. Which is why I write a journal at 5am every morning.

And jazz guitar? Well that was tough to begin with. But guitar? Not so tough. I was really good but just needed to keep at it. I played my guitar more in the past year than I did in the previous six years combined. If my music teachers ever found out I played my guitar so little for such a long time they would freak out. Well they get the opportunity to if they read this.

But not anymore. Never again.

Never again do I allow critique to be the end. Never again do I allow a door to stop me.

It’s not me the experts are crushing. It’s simply a challenge to double down, work harder, come back again but better.

One person out of billions said my writing is torturous more than a decade ago. Oh well.

The Pilgrimage

The rhythmic pilgrimage cycles back today,
A ritual imprinting itself onto my heart
Not as relief but as duty,
My life as I have known it depends on it.

Surrounded by others settling into the camp,
We will come with our burdens, our expectations,
Our hopes which were spilled out across the grounds,
And love will rise from shattered pieces.

If this is only an autumn occurrence
Somehow I was not told of its ending in the winter,
Nor last spring, nor this summer,
As the place I journey to on this day forgot to stay
Inside its autumn home and wandered with me
Through seasons I’d wish upon not a single soul.
This ritual, this holy event, it haunted all year.

This day, this pilgrimage, hitched a ride back with me
It journeyed with me to come to my holy place,
And never let me alone till I finally said:
“Here is my crushed self,
Here is my true self,
Take it, I hope others will take it too.”

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How Long Will You Stay There?

What utter horror are some of the areas in our head we allow ourselves to travel to. We can travel towards them for a while. But even a mere moment may be too long.

The problem is these areas of despair will continue to call for attention once fed. It’s the duration and distances we allow ourselves to stay there which will do all the harm.

For me, it seems like I even go a step further and find a pickaxe to help dig deeper down into the spaces of negativity. Assisting this doesn’t help at all.

We need to rush towards the narratives which lift us up. Which tell us our true value. It comes from outside of us often enough we mistake these affirmations as not us because it comes from someone else.

While I’m busy digging away with my pickaxe someone usually comes along and pays me a compliment. And I’m stubborn enough to tell them thanks but I’m kinda busy digging further into all my failings at the moment.

Embrace these affirmations. Take hold of the slightest one. Grab what you brush off as something you do naturally and could do in your sleep.

The compliment is not a waste at all. It is someone outside yourself telling you how valuable you are.

Rush towards those spaces of praise and travel those distances to get there and build them up. Collect them and store them and reflect on them.

So when the despair comes, which it comes, we can hold fast to hope in the new creation we are becoming. The creation constantly redeemed.

Realization Of Change

If you can come to a point where you are humbled enough to know things aren’t working the way they should be then there is an incredible opportunity at hand. The moment is right there for a major pivot point in your life.

Awareness is something which begs to be acted upon. I become aware of the situation I am in and know it is not what I want, I know it is not what I need, I know it is not where I am suppose to be at at all.

This is exactly the ripe moment. This realization is the catalyst for change.

It doesn’t have to be acted upon right now. Because if it’s strong enough of a realization it will stay with you for a while. It will prod your mind and heart for however long it takes for the next part to kick in.

This part is the action. To do something about it. And it can be the smallest change or alteration to what you need to accomplish. I mean the smallest. But you got to find yourself acting upon it.

But first and foremost it truly is this moment of realization. Coming to grips with change is tough because of the humbling aspect of it. I really think it’s the main, if not only hurdle.

I find the hardest part of change is arriving at the realization I have to change, and then doing something about it.

Once I accept I don’t have much right, the act of changing isn’t challenging. The work can get started finally. The work is actually the exciting part.

Remember The Actual Lesson

It’s an all too familiar story. In fact I’ll shorten the setup.

  • College undergrad is walking around aimlessly on campus.
  • Doesn’t know what they will major in, which of course, determines the rest of their entire lives.
  • Wanders into the department doors of a subject matter they’ve never heard of but by title alone sounds very intriguing.

There I was, standing in the Urban Studies department office, no more than a glorified windowless closet in the main campus’s equivalent of a high school building. Urban studies. Hmmm, I wonder what this is. I mean, I picked up the pamphlet a couple times, and I knew I loved tall buildings, main streets, and walkability before I knew walkability was a word.20171009_102936

The undergrad director at the time was in his office and gladly welcomed my unannounced visit. After stating what could be the most repeatable line any college professor hears, “hi, my name is ____, and I have no idea what I am majoring in,” this professor launches. I mean, he must have either been caffeinated or just waiting for this moment. I’m certain there’s no way I was the first to do this to him. But what followed gave me the sense he was just muddling through his day until I showed up.

A few things were said about urban studies. Maybe a couple. I think you’re obligated to at least address a person’s direct question at first to be polite.

Then he started to make his transition. It flowed rather naturally. Although, as I would discover later on after taking a course with him, he had indeed been preparing.

His message to me, paraphrased:

Do you want to change the world? Do you want to make an impact? People like Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi changed the world by finding something bigger than themselves and throwing their all into it. Something they couldn’t direct on their own, but something they certainly could bring hope to others by their actions. Do you want to do something lasting which changes the lives in your own life?

I don’t think we actually came back to urban studies after that. He may have handed me the brochure.

All I knew while he was talking was this: I need to take any course I can with this guy. If this is how he is when I just waltz into his office, I can only imagine what a class is like.

Not long after I signed up for the co-major of urban studies. A co-major meaning it didn’t have enough core classes to be a full major, so I still needed to pick a major.

Which he then suggested something audacious. Pick something I really like. What a strange concept. So I picked history because I love, love, love history. I also loved seeing the faces people would make after I told them I was in college and they asked “what is your major?” My answer made their starting smile which read ‘good for you kid, being responsible and stuff by going to college’ turn to shear terror of ‘God bless your soul and future career.’

I figured I would go on and obtain a masters in urban planning (which I would). But here is what I neglected.

Somewhere along the way I allowed his message to be hijacked by all the usual trappings. His message to me that day was not ‘sign up to urban studies.’ His message was ‘change the world you live in, help people in your life, and grow into the person you really need to become.’

It wasn’t go get your masters in urban planning.

It was go do what you like and help others while you’re at it.

Take The Depths Too

You want me to be something
Other than the disaster I am
With none of the side effects of
Losing regrets I’ll never see completed.

There is a constant sense of
Moving along without self inflicted burdens,
Yet born out of terrors are the exact
Words we all desire of me.

So come, rescue what’s left if you want,
But please, for the sake of
Sacredness within all we see and feel,
Rescue everything, take the depths too.

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