How to make everyday feel like vacation without quitting your job

Sunset St. PeteOkay I’ll start with a confession. If you are an employer, then giving this to your employees, won’t make them magically skip their holidays to work more hours for you. Although if you try and it works, then please transfer a percentage of whatever that is worth to you to my account.

Having gotten  that out of the way, let’s get on with it. Being quite the wanderer myself, I have spent quite a lot of time contemplating how everyday could get to be a bit more like everyday on a vacation. The obvious answer of course is to just lay by the beach all day and sip margaritas. The short term effects of this would probably b y great. A lot of relaxation and no stress at all. Until your boss calls and yells at you for not being at your desk. Then no relaxation, no margaritas and no job – which you could argue would give more time for the beach – but as you probably will have bills to pay, then again, this is a somewhat  shortsighted solution.

What you need to do is look a little deeper into what separates normal everyday life from everyday life while being on vacation. This can of course depend a lot on how you spend your vacation. Some people like to spend them horisonttally on a deck chair in front of a pool, only having to lift their arms to have a cocktail put into them by the all-inclusive staff. Others like to spend their vacations on training camps or hiking around exploring.

Perhaps with the exception of the “all-inclusive-glued-to-the-deck-chair-I-WON’T-move!” vacation all the other actually have quite a bit in common although their expression of it differs. What they have in common is new experiences. What makes a vacations leave such a long lasting and worthwhile impact is the multitude of new experiences you have.

In contrast, what characterizes “normal” everyday living is the exact opposite. A lot of routine and not many new experiences. You could go see your friends, but hey there is Netflix and a day tomorrow, so perhaps it is better if you just stay on the couch tonight, you can do so tomorrow. Then tomorrow arrives. Today you’ll go have fun with your friends, a but wait today is training day with your team. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow. And then each day goes by, followed by each week and nothing new happens. Each week just looks like the previous on repeat, like Christmas holiday television, the same over and over again.

The solution is simple but not easy. Don’t ever confuse the two.

What you need to do more often is break out your regular routines. I had sort of an epiphany with regards to this recently. I grew up near the ocean and always find myself seeking towards the ocean and water whenever possible. I love being near water, on water and swimming in water. It by all means make me happier. Having moved to the capital of Denmark a few years back, this swimming and being close to the ocean was made a bit more complicated. Note; complicated. Not impossible by any means as Copenhagen actually is right beside the coast and ocean, but getting there was a bit harder as I would have to drive through heavy traffic to get there. For almost two years I didn’t swim all that much during summer. Of course I had a few swims when vacation or anything of the like brought me in a situation where swimming was obvious or easy. But even though I lived not that far from the sea I never went there myself even though if I had lived the same distance to the sea on a vacation I would probably have went almost everyday when weather allowed for it.

After a recent move, and while thinking some of the thoughts that is put to writing here, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no more than 15 minutes of drive from my apartment to the beach. If I was unhappy about not spending enough time near or in water, it was totally my own fault! This had to change!

So I made the decision to actually do take the time to go for a evening swim during weekdays. Go out experience something new and be open to what it might bring. I also find myself more often going out to photograph and see landmarks and points of interest close by that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Sure the urge for just being at home some days are stronger, and the point is not to always force yourself out of the door, but the point is that some days you do. Some days you DO fight the urge to stay on the couch during weekdays and go out either for yourself or with friends for new experiences.

They are out there waiting for you. Go get them!

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The Myth of Sisyphus starring the hopeful entrepreneur

One of the hard parts about entrepreneurship is the lack of acknowledgement and appreciation when starting out. No one really knows what you are doing. A few people may know the hypothesis behind what you are trying to accomplish but for most unproven ideas they start their life as just that – an unproven hypothesis.

If you are a bricklayer building a house your work is very linear. The more you put in the more you get out. The goal of your work is to build a structure. The more hours you spend laying bricks the closer you get to reaching that goal. This is relatively easy to comprehend both for yourself and the people around you. You may find the work boring, but you can see you are getting closer to your goal and so can the people around you. Keep working you are almost there.

Now enter the core of entrepreneurship – prove the unproven hypothesis. This is where work gets anything but linear. The myth of Sisyphus describes meaningless work and therefore isn’t in its original meaning a good description of entrepreneurship, but with a few alterations the picture of one pushing a big rock to the top of a mountain, actually depicts entrepreneurship rather well.

First of all we need more rocks. You may have somewhat of an idea that your end goal should be a rock on top of a mountain, but exactly which rock is not all that apparent – so enter more rocks. You now run from rock to rock trying to push them uphill, spending all your energy pushing one rock only to see another roll back down the mountain, you then sprint to recover this and with herculean effort makes good progress with this one.

Now strolling around comes your good friend whom of course needs pictures for his Instagram profile. He takes a snapshot of you pushing a rock uphill. This of course somewhat shows you are working hard, but it does not show the full truth. It does not show the other rocks, all your sprints and efforts to keep them moving in the right direction. It does not show whether you are halfway, just getting started or near the end goal – and honestly you do not even know that. Your friends can show some sympathy towards your work, but they will never know the full story.

Then one day you can see a summit. You must be getting close now – all your work must have payed of. With endless nights of all out effort you get the rock you are pushing to the summit. You have looked forward to this day for so long and is ready to explode with relief – but then. The rock rolls over the summit and down on the other side. Everything goes downhill and eventually you find yourself in an even lower valley with a steeper hill to climb on the other side. What you thought was the summit was only a small step on the way. You almost had time to celebrate what you thought was your victory, only to find out – it wasn’t. You still have a long way to go – presumably – you don’t really know. You can’t see the summit, you know somewhat the direction, but whether it will take you a day, a year or you’ll never reach the top – you don’t really know. You just have to keep pushing your rocks in the direction you believe in and hope that some day it will all pay off.

This is entrepreneurship. One long education in delayed gratification. You spend all your energy on work you can’t be sure to ever return anything. You can work hard, you can work smart – but in the end you still need a good topping of luck sprinkled on top. You can do everything “right” with the best of intentions and still end up failing or do everything “wrong” with the worst of intentions and still end up succeeding – no one really knows.

This is the beauty of entrepreneurship and the reason why it is a crash course in life it self. Life is full of randomness and adversity, there is no panel of judges keeping score and giving you prices for good effort. Good, bad, lazy effort there is no score. All you can do is live in the moment move towards your goals and enjoy the journey.

 

Awareness in daily living

Almost no matter who you are daily living can be both mundane and boring. Even if I wanted I can’t change that. But I do believe there is value to be had and perhaps I can make a little change in the way you go about your day which will make them seem a little more worth your time.

The thought about writing this post actually came about several months ago watching my then roommate doing the dishes. I have since observed other do somewhat the same.

Awareness can sound very spiritual and fluffy and to some people it might be just that, but in the context I will use it here it’s neither. It is more in the realm of being present. I am quite sure that whoever you are there are times when awareness comes very natural. Usually this is doing things we enjoy such as playing with friends or working on something we love. Making love could and should be an example of this – but most people are way more in their head than their body, thinking about whether they perform, how they look, “does he really like me”, “will she see me again” etc. that they perform the most enjoyable physical act without actually being present in their physical body.

Then how does making love tie into doing the dishes? I’ll get to that.

Unless you’re a Prince(please drop a comment if you are), then you probably have to do with quite mundane tasks in your life. They are tasks that needs to be done but aren’t all that enjoyable. This could be as mentioned earlier doing the dishes. Then why will awareness and doing the dishes ever merge into something beautiful? Beautiful might be overselling it, but they can actually meet and have a nice pleasant conversation.

Doing the dishes from a standpoint of “this is a dull task that involves putting water on plates and brushing a bit” not only makes it more annoying but also makes your end result sloppy. If you do it that way you miss the end result which is actually making the dishes clean. Thats what I observed with previous roommates. They just splattered some water on each plate, knife and fork, rubbed a bit with a brush and then dried them. This often left the dishes with stains that then ended in the dish towel – then you have a dirty dish towel and semi dirty dishes – good job!

The “goal” of much meditation is to bring more focus and awareness into your life. Be more present. Doing mundane tasks is an obvious chance for doing this. Being more aware means being more clear about the objective. When you do the dishes you make sure you do a good job, you do the dishes in order to make them clean. You do not do it as a strange act of splashing a bit of water on things in your sink. You shouldn’t necessarily enjoy it, but you should be present enough to know the objective of your task and do a good job of it.

If your mind is 10 different places and none of them are with your physical body doing the dishes you end up doing a very bad job, maybe dropping plates or glasses. This is exactly the same as with making love without being present – you can’t enjoy the experience if you’re not actually there. You’ll end up doing a bad “job” and perhaps even setting yourself up for anxiety next time around.

Of course this won’t suddenly turn mundane tasks into pleasurable experiences and sometimes you’ll just be in too much of a hurry to do anything other than storm through them. But just once in a while try to be a little more present while shaving, doing the dishes or cleaning. Even though it is mundane tasks there is still satisfaction to be had from doing a good job rather than a sloppy one.

Perhaps in time you’ll end up being a “artist of the mundane”.

Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman!

I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite some while. I actually started reading it while in Dublin on a business trip some 6-8 months ago – got very amused by it, but at the time I was in the midst of two other books so had to leave it for some while and finish the others first.

A few weeks ago I picked it up again – and what a book! It is very much on course to be the best and most entertaining book I have read all year. There are some hard contenders in the pipeline but in terms of overall entertainment- and take-away-value I think this book is hard to beat.

I think I can describe Mr. Feynman pretty accurately with just one sentence:

The oldest and most knowledgeable child who ever lived

The full title of the book is: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) and especially the subtitle sure does describe Mr. Feynman accurately. His way of looking at the world is just so incredibly inspiring. He really sees the world through the eyes of a newborn child. He can’t encounter anything without having to know how it works. This thirst for knowing how and why things work inspire you to look differently at the world.

He underlines the importance of this several times throughout the book and especially in regards to education. At one point he joins a special advanced biology class, having no prior specific knowledge about biology. He gets a paper assigned which he reads and then has to give a presentation about in front of the class. It’s a paper about muscles, extensors and flexors which uses a cat as an example – there is one problem however; he can’t figure out where they’re located in relation to nerves or the cat itself for that matter. So he finds a “map of the cat” as he calls it and starts his presentation by outlining where all extensors, flexors and nerves are located on the cat. The class interrupts him and says: “Stop, stop – we know that already!” To which he answers:

Oh! – you do? Then no wonder I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had 4 years of biology.

They has wasted time learning and trying to remember facts that they could have looked up in maximum two minutes time… This analogy is just so important! Why waste your time learning things that you can look up in two minutes? Why not save your precious memory space for knowledge that can actually help you understand both problems and the world in general. Later he also highlights a potential error with this type of learning because it makes you remember certain words, but not understand the underlying principles. This is great for passing an exam but bad for actually applying your knowledge to anything useful.

He also spends quite a lot of time explaining the importance of and joy of teaching others which to him was one of the most important activities of his life. He was by no means a guy that wanted to brag about his knowledge but at the same time he wasn’t afraid to speak up and display how knowledgeable he was either. Applying his curiosity of how things worked made him incredibly capable of applying his knowledge across all domains. This philosophy is exactly what he wanted to come across as he taught classes and had students challenge his beliefs. His Lectures on Physics has for a long time been on my wishlist and has just been amplified by the reading of this book – if only they weren’t so damn expensive!

I could write and highlight so many important points from this book. There are invaluable advice on learning, science, living; even entrepreneurship and how to deal with women – which I found especially amusing and surprising to find in this book. There are so many reasons to pick up this book and the fact that it at times makes you laugh out loud just adds to this.

But to finish of, if you are still not convinced, aren’t sure who this Mr. Feynman actually is or just haven’t seen this before, then please watch this interview with him:

Cleaning up your procrastination

This may come of as a very unconventional tip for breaking procrastination or even hard to believe – I found it that way when I first read it somewhere – but again and again it somehow works for me, so it might work for you.

Even though I keep my productivity in close check and am very much aware of when it starts to drift, I still from time to time find myself struggling with procrastination or trying to fight my way through thick layers of “bran fog”. Sometimes work and creativity just comes easy. Getting in the zone and banging out several hours of creative work just comes as second nature – but then at other times this “zone” just seems to have disappeared altogether.

My usual ques to get into the zone, as for instance the same hour long mix played through earplugs, just do not seem to have any effect. And even the act of sitting down and put on the music is a feat in of itself. As though the body or the head somehow resists putting up the work. This is where this little tip more often than not have helped me tremendously.

Whenever I find myself in this deep hole, walls covered with brain-fog and with a heavy lid of procrastination on top, I clean my shit up.

Quite literally – whenever I end in this situation I will clean up my room/apartment. Whether it being putting everything back to its intended place, cleaning off dust or vacuuming – it just has to look mint again. The reason why this works for me might be that I make these small unconscious notes of where things are not in order or where in the apartment it needs cleaning. They are of themselves not that big of a deal, but they seems to pile up inside my head and at some point they tip over.

You need to clean up at some point anyway and if you are procrastinating you are not getting anything done anyways – so you might as well try cleaning your home.

As U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven says in his commencement speech:

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”

And then goes on to say:

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

The full commencement speech is here if it caught your interest:

Give it a shot – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The best book on relationships

I have mentioned The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship before, back then just referencing almost an entire chapter called The Magical Kitchen and recommending people to read the entire book. But recently I re-read it and realized how much it had actually impacted my view on all types of relationships; friends, family, lovers etc. It dawned on me that this might be one of the most influential book I have ever read, even though, if you have asked me before I re-read it this time, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it.

But it sure deserves a good shout-out once again. It CAN change the way you view and handle all relationships in your life. It is not a book like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion  or How to Win Friends & Influence People – which both are amazing books – but they tend to focus on your ability to make an impact on other people, whereas The Mastery Of Love focuses more on yourself, distills feelings and worries into what is your responsibility and more importantly what is not.

From page 66 in the book:

In every relationship there are two halves of the relationship. One half is you, and the other half is your son, your daughter, your father, your mother, your friends, your partner. Of those halves, you are only responsible for your half; you are not responsible for the other half. It doesn’t matter how close you think you are, or how strongly you think you love, there is no way you can be responsible for what is inside another person’s head. You can never know what that person feels, what that person believes, all the assumptions she makes. You don’t know anything about that person. That is the truth, but what do we do? We try to be responsible for the other half, and that is why relationships in hell are based on fear, drama, and the war of control.

 

It can’t be said much more precisely. You can only control your own reactions, never anybody else’s. I can complain all day long that my partner does not do x,y,z but at the end of the day I cannot, and more importantly should not try to control my partner, I can only control my own reactions to her behavior. If x,y,z is something I cannot live with, then guess what – we probably shouldn’t be together. You can easily make the decision way more complicated, which a lot of people do, but at the end of the day it is all up to you. How much self-abuse will you take. If something in one of your relationships nags you so much, then make a decision whether this person should stay in your life. You can and should tell the person how you feel, but you can’t expect them to change anything. In the opposite scenario it works the same way. You can make all the sacrifices you want to please and impress the other person, but you can’t expect them to feel anything special. That is their half of the relationship. If they act selfish, rude or anything else, you can’t expect to change it. What you can do is walk away and respect your own happiness.

I could try to distill the information from the book even more, but I just feel like I will be doing the book a disservice. It is a cheap and short book. You can probably read it in 2-4 hours, and as written above I strongly believe it can change the relationships in your life to the better. It is easily one of the most influential book I ever read! Just started reading another of Don Miguel Ruiz’ books called The Four Agreements and so far it has not disappointed one bit, he just writes in such clear language – at least for me. But that book might find its way into another blog post. For now my advice which of course I cannot expect you to follow is: pick up The Mastery Of Love!