Temporary Lulls Are Just That…Temporary

This post sings a bit of a different tune. It’s more about the lulls in energy or drive that hit me in my daily life, be it work related, training related, or personally related.

It seems more so than ever I am aware that my life really is a series of unbalanced scales. I have a finite amount of hours and energy each day I bring to a project, to school, or to a training session. Sometimes when things in my life don’t seem to be in balance, it throws off the entire equation and I just shut down for awhile. Sometimes that while can last a few hours to a few weeks. And, every so often, I try to take a step back and really examine what I’m doing. Since I don’t work a 9-to-5 job, my projects last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. It’s nice and refreshing to be able to reframe my viewpoint so regularly. In fact, it is a luxury that I quite dearly missed in the spurts I committed to working full-time the few times in my adult life.

Lately I’ve been juggling more design work than school work. Just a few months ago, I was immersed full time in school work. What happened? Did I get bored or am I just coming up against a temporary lull? As you may already know, my interests oscillate between tech/design and health/fitness. One started off as a hobby and became a career, and sometimes it seems like I’m trying to redo that entire cycle over again in a completely different field.

I like to think of these temporary lulls as good practice for the Ironman. 17 hours is a long time to slug away at something. There will be some times when I don’t feel like swimming another yard, biking another mile, or running another step. It is in these temporary lulls that build character and grit. It is in trying times that you learn that the best things in life are the things you earn — education, leadership, strength. The things in life that are worth having are worth working for. Some have to work tirelessly before they see the fruits of their labor. Some people will never reach their end goals, but the journey is so consuming and well worth the investment that it is, in of itself, the reward.

It is in these quiet times I spend alone that I learn the most about myself and the people around me. A little bit of quiet observation unfolds a great deal of analysis of my past and present. I can’t predict the future but I can stack the odds. I can make plans for the future without sacrificing my appreciation of the present. I can honor the past by living fully in the present. I can (try to) learn to let go of the people and events in the past that burns inside of me.

I think the one thing I’ve learned the most in my adult life is how little I actually know. It’s kind of scary. I don’t have enough time on this earth for all of the books I want to read, the languages I want to learn, the places I want to visit, the startups I want to work with, the people I want to meet, the races I want to run. A lot of people at my age (and younger) feel invincible and on top of the world. I feel the exact opposite. I have so much to learn and so little time to execute it in. And, even though one of my goals is to complete an Ironman triathlon, I know that I have a lot of training ahead and a lot of life lessons to learn along the way.

I guess one place where I can start is…how the heck do I work all of the gears on my bike? That’s a pretty actionable first step, right?

Dealing with Derailment

Often times things don’t go quite as planned. Actually, let me rephrase that — most times, things don’t go quite as planned.

 

Sometimes you’ve been incredibly meticulous at laying out your schedule and things get in the way. It happens…it’s life! Sometimes, though, you get in your own way, or worse, you allow other people to get in the way. You might make excuses for them or over-rationalize  motives or actions, but what’s the best way to deal with derailment?

1. Being forgiving: Sometimes acceptance and moving on is the best move. If you’ve missed two months of workouts or ten years of brotherhood, sometimes it’s best to forgive yourself, move on, and vow to do better tomorrow. You can’t control what has happened in the past but you can control how you deal with it from now on.

2. Making a plan: What happened that allowed this problem (the inability to deal) to fester? How will you ensure it won’t happen again? And, what will happen when you  inevitably slip up again? (See #1 for that answer.) How will you stay accountable to others, but ultimately, yourself?

3. Seeing it all the way through: Giving yourself a reasonable timeline proves commitment and the responsibility to yourself to stick to something long enough to make it work. Whether it’s a new workout routine, retraining for a new career, learning a new language, or managing your time better, taking incremental steps towards achieving your goals will result in a sustainable (read: maintainable) change in your life.

4. Being patient: You probably won’t see results overnight, or very quickly, for that matter. Know that everything and anything worth having is worth fighting for. Things that come easy are fleeting. Most importantly, remember that a lot of people make their accomplishments look easy. Know that it’s never as easy as it seems!

I think as a whole, I get more annoyed by myself and others because I have been trained to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason. When I find myself in a losing battle, I come to accept that I played some hand in doing something that caused the failure. I then accept my responsibility and move on. Usually what happens is that I find myself making excuses or rationalizing my unacceptable behavior. Most of the time I think before I speak so I don’t blurt it out, but instead recognize it in my thoughts and communicate my apologies and my suggested course of remedy. If I catch myself doing that in an email or over chat, I just delete it.

Excuses are crutches. They are the lazy man’s way of dealing with disappointment, derailment, or failure. How do you deal with derailment? What are you looking to improve on?

The Problem With Christmas

As a child I really enjoyed saving up my allowance and buying stuff for my friends and family. My father never really took well to the whole concept of buying stuff and I think I finally know why.

The course of events this last year has really pushed me into the realm of “the bigger picture.” The thoughts that cloud my mind include, Where do our actions today take us tomorrow? How do the little things we do help us in the long run? How do I help plant the seeds for a better tomorrow?

You see, I have friends, family, and loved ones who all want stuff for Christmas. Unfortunately the stuff they want doesn’t necessarily fit into any long term goals. The fleeting desires for material items and temporary satisfactions actually serve more as distractions than they do long term solutions to their problems. I want to help them tackle the latter, not the former. But, how do I do that on a limited budget of time and money?

Some of the weighty goals of said family, friends, and loved ones include:

  1. Traveling Europe
  2. Finding inner peace
  3. Succeeding in nursing school
  4. Saving enough money for a wedding
  5. Getting healthier
  6. Pursuing their passion, and
  7. Fulfilling a lifelong dream

Because of the nature of my relationships with these people, I believe that I either play a role or SHOULD play a role in helping them achieve whatever it is they are aiming for. I try my best in my interaction with them to nurture these ambitions and to drive the conversation and actions towards these end goals. The problem with Christmas is that most of us use the holidays as an excuse to distract ourselves from the real issues of setting goals and achieving them through actionable steps.

So, with this Christmas still a few days away, I am remaining hyper-cognizant of my unfortunate dilemma. I’m hoping to come to some sort of creative “baby-step” solution that I can offer as a gift soon…seeing as though Christmas is only a few days away.

I am not super religious but I am spiritual and I truly believe that this time of year — better yet, every day of every year — should be spent in pursuit to improving the human condition. It doesn’t matter if you want to tackle the problem on a macro or micro scale, because the trickle down/up effect is inevitable. All I ask is that you do SOMETHING. I end this statement with a video I came across a few years ago, when I found a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Homelessness in Los Angeles

Living in mid-city Los Angeles I frequently face the issue of homelessness. My particular section of Wilshire, called Miracle Mile, has a few regulars. When it gets too hot out, they chase the shade with all of their earthly possessions. When it gets too cold out they huddle in thick blankets and build forts out of cardboard boxes and newspapers.

Yesterday, in my privileged state of being, I was enjoying a hot cup of tea while reviewing some reading for my public relations class. I love to people watch so I get very distracted if a tea house begins to fill out with transient or purposeful souls who are looking for a quick respite from their everyday routine. I stared at my book but opened my ears and listened to a man who had just sat down to converse with a woman at a nearby table.

“This is the time of day I hate the most” he says.

“What do you mean?”

“…Night. It’s when I can’t go home, because I don’t have one.”

“Oh.”

“It’s the stigma of being homeless, I guess.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes before he got bundled up and left the coffee shop to seek temporary shelter elsewhere.

Homelessness is an unfortunate reality here in Los Angeles. With it comes a myriad of social stigmas, psychiatric issues, and financial ramifications. I try to help as much as I can by giving out food. (Unfortunately, that is not always the preferred method of dealing with the homeless.) I purposefully don’t finish my Subway footlong or carry an extra full bag of groceries hoping that I will be able to help someone for just a few hours with their problems. Sometimes when a homeless person is refused service inside of a coffee shop or convenience store I try to speed through my checkout just so that I could hand them a small gift card…but they’ve usually already snuck away. What breaks my heart the most is watching other people ignore their cries for help.

The only real difference between the sheltered and the homeless are four walls. The fact that my mother was on the brink of homelessness when she and her eight other siblings were orphaned at a young age probably have something to do with my hypersensitivity of this issue. It is a large-scale problem with multiple variates, and it requires the attention from and coordination of many different societal institutions to fully address. I hope that one day, somehow, the playing field will level, but I suppose that transcends our current material world. After all, some people can still feel spiritually or emotionally homeless within their own home.

Do what you can…and do something!

Returning to Nature – It's Just Perspective, People!

I am a true believer that most of our problems can be solved by returning to nature.

We face a lot of complex issues everyday. Maybe someone at work is under-performing. Perhaps you are feeling conflicted about a loved one. Maybe the external pressures you feel are just too much to bear. When things get rough, consider taking a step back and consider returning to your natural roots for a little bit. You don’t have to go completely Walden on us — a short walk, hike, bike ride, or ocean appreciation lunch break will do — but most of the time, giving yourself a change in environment can reframe your perspective.

Nature has a perfect order about her. Completely self-correcting and forgiving, the great outdoors can stand to teach you a lot about balance and harmony. Nature is not possessive or emotional; it reacts on both metaphysical and chemical logic that transcends human rationalization. There are no shades of gray really, just an endless array of possibilities that come in all shapes and sizes…if you know where to look.

On the other hand, Nature knows when to work on a problem and when to obliterate it as well. Admittedly we’re humans, and therefore emotional, so we can’t completely devoid our behavior and rationalization from said emotion. But again, if we could take a step back to reframe our perspective and understand a problem for what it actually is — not what we think it might be based on how we are feeling today, or how someone is telling us how to feel —  we might actually be able to solve some of our problems.

Give it a try!