If you want someone to participate, give them all the tools and resources you can to enable them to get started. Don’t make them solve riddles. People who value their time don’t want to play your game unless you make clear the value that’s offered and the rules to get started. Another way to frame participation is with that not-so-dirty word that starts with an ‘s’; selling. Getting people to participate, aka buy in, is nothing else but selling. I was inspired to talk about this after someone message me on Instagram asking me to participate in a challenge. Besides being in another language, I couldn’t make clear what he was asking of me so I asked him to expand and provide some details for me. He responded with something not quite comprehend-able so I asked to explain further and then he told me I would know when I know. Nope! Sorry dude, you lost me. I choose not to waste time trying to decipher your Davinci code so I can THEN participate in something that seems likely to only benefit you. This is how some of your customers feels if you aren’t laying it out for them. Give them the resources. Make it as easy as possible for them to engage and become a part of the process. Make it worth their while. Provide the value. Then make the ask. Be Batman and reach for your tool belt and then give selflessly. Don’t be the Riddler.
I’m a little more than a month from 30 and life is forcing me to look back at the last ten as much as I look over the horizon into the unknown of the next 10, be I lucky enough to have them. So I write this letter to the 20 year old out there that might come across this and see something about me that they can relate to. My aim here is to provide you with a bit of wisdom that I have gained over the last 10 years of fuck ups. May you distill from them what you need and apply where necessary. Remember, I only speak from 30, nothing more, nothing less. But in 10 years a whole lot happens that you may not be able to grasp your mind around until you find yourself, 10 years later, writing about it. So my effort here is to save you some time. Because life truly is short. And even more so it is long. How you play within this paradox is crucial to your success.
Play the Long Game. Remember that you are always evolving. You must continue to push yourself and evolve. Complacency is like standing on a moving treadmill. The choice therefore is not to walk, but rather run towards your goals because much like a treadmill, if you walk, you will only keep the pace. You will not actually go anywhere. Take this from someone who fell back on their ass for 2 years straight in a weed induced haze (more on this later). Life demands that you constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone. The people around you with any amount of success are doing this and they probably aren’t talking about it. They are making it a habit in their life so make it a habit in your life. A quiet habit. Seek the discomfort without any of the acclaim. If you do, you are complaining.
Take note of the people in your life that do a lot of complaining. If they are friends and family, do your best to distance yourself from them. Their negative, complaining energy is a black hole. You will get pulled in, whether consciously or subconsciously. Human relationships are complex so I’m not telling you to tell these negative people in your life that they suck and write them off completely. Use some tact here. Don’t be an asshole but do you’re best to make space and if possible, sever the ties. Over time, your relationships will evolve and change. You will lose friends and you will gain new ones. Take ownership over this. You will hurt others feelings in the process but you are bound to offend someone if you are living in your truth. If positivity and growth are part of your truth, then you must let go of the negative.
Know that you can always reinvent yourself. You are never tied to the ideas that those around you hold of you. You are never tied to the ideas you have of your own self. You can be like Bowie, always changing throughout a lifetime. Choose to be fully alive throughout your metamorphosis. Experience the pleasure and pain. Remember, both of these feelings are fleeting though one may try and persuade you that it will last an eternity. Don’t fall victim to this trap. I fell victim to these traps several times in my 20s. I would spend days, huddled up behind my computer after having smoked way too much weed, obsessively running through the ‘genius’ ideas in my head, only to never take action and repeat the cycle for weeks on end. It took me much too long to figure out the traps that I had set for myself and was continuing to walk in to. It doesn’t need to take you this long. Sit with the wisdom you are blessed to receive from your mentors. If you don’t have one, make this the priority in your life. Find someone that you want to model your life after. Only now, at almost 30, have I found mentors for several different areas of my life. While you search for a good mentor, read a lot of books. This is the next best thing.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You tell yourself to have all the fun and increase the pleasure now and abolish the pain immediately. I’ve been there. Seeking the next good time instead of putting in the work each day. But life is a long game and quotes romanticizing the shortness of life do exactly that, fall short. They fall short of the reality that will be the next ten years to come. These are the years when your energy and foolishness will be their highest. Both assets to any one trying to achieve greatness. Don’t waste either and learn how to manage both. Keep away from patterns that don’t serve you, especially the pattern of daily marijuana use. The dullness this pattern carries is no catalyst for creation. It is the mere opposite. Something a bit more dangerous. A neutral complacency where nothing is great and nothing is terrible. I lived this complacency. Smoking everyday may work for others but it did not work for me. Worst of all, I knew this truth and denied it consistently, for years. I forced myself to believe that it was helping cure my symptoms of anxiety and Tourettes, to realize that it was only exacerbating them. This is the greatest lie I have ever told myself and one that lasted for years. Remember, when you lie to yourself consistently, it’s all the easier to lie to others unknowingly.
There are even people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who never left this daily complacency and are now starting to realize the presence in life they missed out on. Check out reddit.com/r/leaves for plenty of first hand accounts of people trying to leave this neutral way of being. It’s also a great place to start if you are looking for a community to support you moving away from a dependence on weed. It certainly has it’s medical benefits but remember to treat it as medicine. Medicine has different effects on different people. Respect it and your relationship to it. If you’re relationship means you don’t need it in your life, respect that too.
Two things I do now that I wish I would have done daily over the last 10 years. Stillness and movement. Sounds like an inevitable but the kinds I am speaking about here are conscious efforts. Build a daily practice with meditation and movement, first thing in the morning. Mindfulness is everywhere now but it’s actually one of those fads that has lasting power. Whether it goes in or out, you should always stay with it. How that stillness practice looks to you is for you to find on your own. For ease, check out an app like Headspace to get you started. I recommend 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. This is what works for me. I suggest doing some research to find what works for you but stillness and quieting the mind is key. Observing your thoughts. Non attachment. You will hear these words over and over again because this is the consistent finding of time in stillness. It’s not easy but don’t get hung up on having to perform. Just sit and observe. Find what works for you. Second, you must move everyday. Move your body in a multitude of ways in multiple plains. Lift heavy things. Move them in different directions. Move with others. Horseplay. Grab people and throw them. Be soft with others and find lightness in the touch. Have sex. Play more games, indoors and outdoors. Move your body with and without others. Stop being sedentary for so long. Stop spending hours behind a computer without taking breaks. You are not a robot. You’re a human being. Go behave like one.
Final thoughts. I wrote this note because I have a responsibility to leave you something from my experience. Because I see the changes. I see the changes that owning ones life can manifest and it ultimately came down to living in my truth. To stay one step ahead of the old me’s and the lies they used to tell me. To listen to my gut feeling everyday so I could sharpen the communication with who I am trying to become. So that I can step into the unknown of the greatness that this life can experience through me. It is our responsibility to go forward and get on with it. So please remember to keep moving forward. Embrace everything, full on. Embrace the fear. Embrace the discomfort. State your presence. It’s either all in or all out.
You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will.
– Neil Peart
There’s a place that I find myself at times where I have a series of choices to make that can heavily influence my levels of energy. I see this as something that many other people struggle with as well.
No amount of coffee can persuade this energy because this energy is not like the bright eyed feeling we may get from coffee. The energy I am speaking about is the energy that excites us and animates us beyond any feeling that caffeine can provide. I liken this energetic spark to the feeling of new love. You take risks to see this person. You go to great lengths to have them near you. You feel ecstasy overflowing from your insides as if you were about to explode with pure joy. Everyone around you can feel your radiating energy. You are unstoppable. You are invincible.
I know this feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. I also get it when I discover doorways to new movements or meet someone who is as excited by the potential of movement as I am. I also know what it feels like to be on the complete opposite of this feeling. To feel so upside down and outside of myself that it feels fraudulent to merely exist. I feel terrified and my breath shortens at the thought of beginning my practice. Even the things I love can not coax me off the floor or out of bed. It’s a doom-full feeling that no amount of passion, even obsession, can seem to override. Society tries to convince me that these passions and obsessions will carry me through the hard times but the depression I feel doesn’t seem to care about these one size fits all cliches.
So if passion (i.e. obsession) can not fuel me on off days, I need to resort to a system, routine, method or whatever you may want to call it that can keep me on track towards my goals while mitigating the damage of depressive feelings and thoughts. The systems allow us to stick to a plan and then evaluate what did and did not work at specified intervals. This approach is much like physical training. When you stick to a method and track your progress, you will see results. Check in every 4-6 weeks, adjust properly, and continue to progress. For simplicity sake, we can call this mental programming. I’m certainly not the first to take this approach nor coin it as such and I thank all of those who have laid the groundwork and documented there experiences so I could benefit without all of the pains of failure. Yet, failure will be imminent and must be experienced in order to better the systems we create. Also, do not take this post as gospel. Systems should have a strong fundamental base but should be open to improvisation and exploration by the individual. Systems will also be open to the scrutiny of others. These will be moments for learning as you will discover the holes and flaws in your approach, whether pointed out by others or yourself. Lastly, the system should be self discovered and self appointed. Often we can take others systems too literally and blindly follow their approach.
Here are some ideas for creating your own system:
Non Zero Days
This idea was initially presented to me as a child when my parents would tell me to read or go play outside when I would complain about being bored. That idea was to general though and finding a Reddit thread gave more substance to this concept. It has become a daily guide for me and keeps me away falling victim to a depressive state of mind. The idea is simple yet powerful: don’t let your day end without accomplishing anything, no matter how small it is, that your future self will thank you for. As these non zero days build up, you build discipline and open the door for new possibilities that are not available to you through stagnation. The reddit post expands upon this and dives even deeper to provide a 4 prong approach with non zero days being the first rule.
Mind Emptying Practice
Mindfulness and meditation seem to be the in buzzwords we hear about everyday for a happier life. As cliche as it may be, taking time out of your day to meditate has long lasting effects beyond the 5 minutes you may dedicate to it everyday. A key here is the everyday component. Studies show that meditating consistently has the power to change your perceptions of your environment and situation. There are 2 things that meditation has specifically provided me: 1) reclaim my time and feel power over my life and 2) provide stillness to an always connected and busy day. Observing my busy mind allows me to approach the complexities of my day as an observer instead of a victim. I am able to approach difficult people and situations as simply moments in a reality that I get to experience as the subject of a great journey. The bad times don’t seem so bad and the good times feel that much sweeter. If sitting still isn’t your thing, walking meditation might be for you. Also, remember that there is nothing to accomplish here. Meditation can take many forms and does not have to be only what you see or here in the media. Emptying the mind versus filling the mind might be a better way to visualize and implement this practice. I believe the key here is taking the time for stillness and reminding yourself that being here right now, in whatever form that might be, is ok.
Remember, you may feel frustration the first time you do and the 1,000th time. The point is to observe that frustration and understand that you are NOT the frustration but merely EXPERIENCING it.
Everyday we must move. We have no other choice. We move to eat. We move to sleep. We move to get to work. We move to meet our family and friends. But what happens when we consciously choose to move for moving sake, simply because we can? Movement then becomes more than just a chore for preventing weight gain but rather a means to explore our human potential. Too often, I hear people say how they partied over the weekend so now they need to go to the gym to rectify their sins. When this mindset is taken to our physicality, we run the risk of consistently fall short of the totality of what movement can provide us. If we approach movement as a practice, we can build upon the capabilities of our bodies and open up new levels of expression. Movement is a privilege that we often take for granted as merely a means of getting from place to place. Taking the practice mentality allows us to open up doors within our own structures. Physical play with our friends and families can become a reclamation of what was given to us originally and what many of us have lost along the way. Movement is an essential component to any system and should be explored everyday. What’s another way to describe movement? PLAY! Kids do this naturally and their brains and bodies benefit. The idea that this changes as adults is misguided and we should approach the building of our systems with a strong focus on play. Movement is an innate way for us to get there.
Moving Mind Matter
Whether you like to journal or not, writing your thoughts down on paper can be powerful. Thoughts go from abstract to concrete, at least momentarily. On paper is where we can see our thoughts from a different lense. Over time, I’ve found that my thoughts don’t mean much unless I can express them with others. Writing is the first step to pulling that information out and morphing it into something more than mental material. As I document my thoughts over time, I can see the patterns and biases I hold in my mind. I can see where I expect myself to be through goals and what steps I took to achieve them. I can see where I fall short and where I succeed. As I check in with myself on paper, I can refine my approach to the system I create. As a saying goes, what get’s measured gets done.
It’s important to remember that these suggestions above aren’t the only ways to create this routined approach to living. They are observations of what has worked for me. It is important to note, however, that there is one consistent truth I have found in my life; Having a system/routine keeps starves depression of its vital life force and helps me accomplish more of what I want in my life. I’ve learned these approaches from those I consider more successful when I was seeking a way out of depression. It may not work for you but it works for me. If you are seeking answers, I hope you find some clarity within your own system. For more information from the wiser ones out there, I recommend checking out Tim Ferriss, Ido Portal, Seth Godin, Stephen Jepson
Trying to sit still in school felt like a straight jacket had been put on my soul. My feet jumping up onto my chair, scooting underneath my butt, shuffling themselves back to the floor.
Back and forth I would repeat this pattern. My teachers would comment at me to sit still and stop moving. If I didn’t, there would be repercussions. My insides felt like they were boiling. Every cell in my body bouncing back and forth between my bones and my skin. Faster and faster the cells would vibrate and rattle off one another, trying their best to break through the surface and reach the outside world. Much like my cells, I yearned to explore the outside world. I needed to run and roll and bounce and throw whatever I could get my hands on. Out there was where I shined. In here is where I died.
Now, in post schooling life, I find myself in a new kind of societal standard that mimics closely the same environment that school fostered. This place is the work environment. Oddly enough, you would think someone like me would have chosen a more active occupation but no, I succumb to financial pressures and continue down a stubborn path. Luckily, this is something I have realized about myself over the past couple of years. I’m still on the path to freeing myself of my externally driven decision making but nonetheless, I persist. I don’t believe any of these realizations would be clear to me though without meditation. Meditation is the trendy, woo woo word of the day but it takes on many forms other than sitting in lotus position and focusing on your breath. Pushing myself to try and sit in stillness has been a meditation in and of itself. The mere thought of sitting in stillness causes my Tourette’s to have a field day with my body and create a symphony of tics that would make Beethoven jealous. It’s this daily struggle that elicits the attention to my awareness that has shed light on my consciousness, revealing to me who I am truly meant to be.
Giving myself time to be aware of my thoughts and emotions, fighting through the stillness, has been the most painful and rewarding experience of my current existence. No acid trip or mushroom experience can bring to light the truths of my reality more than this practice of stillness. The key ingredient, I find, is in the practice. The daily practice. Each day builds upon the efforts of the last. Much like my movement practice, my stillness practice, brings awareness to my perception of my thoughts, emotions and spasms. It removes my identifying with these things as who and what I am. I am able to watch them from a distance and remember that they are the objects and I am a subject viewing these objects, much like you and I are subjects who can view a beautiful, emotion driving piece of art while also distinguishing that we are not the painting itself. My thoughts, emotions, and spasms become the beautiful painting. I can watch them more clearly and take them as they are, not passing judgement over them. They are there and I am here.
Without the practice of stillness, I may not have come to face my truth that sharing my journey with Tourette’s would have the power to help others overcome the stresses and anxieties they face. This acknowledgment of who I feel I must become gives me the energy to document, share, and teach my movement practice with others. Through this energy, I am able to continue to providing value to my clients in my sedentary web development job while I explore new ways to tackle my tics and pass this knowledge on to my futures students, those who need it most. Through a balance of movement and stillness, we can truly come to understand who we are at a deeper level. Take the time with this daily practice. All you need is 10 minutes a day to transform your relationship to your thoughts and emotions. Meditation is the daily reminder that you are not your thoughts and emotions, you are something greater. You are the observer.
My movement practice is an escape from my sedentary work life as an internet freelancer and the anxieties and stresses that can come from it. So why did it take me so long to abandon these same stressors from my movement practice? Questioning my practice and gaining insight from my coaches and peers led me to these discoveries that have changed the way I frame stress and my response to it. Here are my takeaways on the lessons I have learned.
1) Create systems
Randomness can be fun but it can also be stressful. Systems allow us to measure our output and see where we are succeeding and failing. Systems are also replicable. Each of us doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of people before us that have created systems that work. This is why we look to those more successful than us to guide us. These successful people have created a system for themselves whether they intended to or not. In my case, I take a system that my coaches use on themselves and have tweaked for my use. My coaches have refined that system from their own coaches, and through the lens of their own lives, have applied it to themselves and their students. What a system ultimately does is take out the guess work. It says, “Do X for Y amount of seconds/minutes/hours/days/years and you will most likely achieve Z.” The system is allowing us to take out any of the guess work and focus on the process. When you have less to think about you can be more focused on your goals. Less Thinking + More action = Less Stress + More Success.
2) Keep your word
In my training, there are 2 people I have to keep myself accountable to: myself and my coach. Having recently moved to Brooklyn, I left my friends and their social pressure behind. I’m not talking about the bad kind of peer pressure. I’m talking about that part of our ego that wants us to make sure we don’t let our friends and family down. When you are part of a group of people all training with the same purpose, it’s harder to stop what you’re doing because you don’t want to let them down. You’ve all promised to work hard and keep each other in check. If your peers care about you enough, they won’t let you slide into lazy habits. I no longer have the direct, in person feedback from my peers since I am a remote student receiving all of my training and instruction online. Although I have to send my coaches videos at the beginning and end of my 5 week cycles, interaction is limited. This means I am accountable to myself. I can easily take days off here and there. I can cut sets short and take video of only my successful reps. All these things would be easier in the short term but they have long term side effects. My system will begin to fall apart. The psychological consequences also worry me. Continually falling short of promises to myself will mean I have a higher likelihood of giving up any time things get tough. I continue to learn this the hard way and have to practice rewiring this habit. This mentality can also leak into work life. As a remote freelancer, delivering on my word is why my clients trust me. Failing to stick to that and clients begin to get upset and stress levels go up. Failing to stick to my plan in training means being stressed out because I know I should have pushed myself harder.
3) Let go of expectations
I have dreams of a 1 minute, 1 arm handstand. This dream is a selfish one. It has no value to others outside of an entertaining party trick. It’s still my dream and I still want to achieve it. All dreams come at a cost though. How I choose to pay for those cost is entirely up to me. I’ve found in training that when I chase after a certain amount of time in holding a handstand that there is a fine line between fun and productive and frustrating and regressive. Ego is a powerful force in our training. It can push us to compete and seek to be better than who we were yesterday. I love the fuel that my ego can give me to take my practice to new levels I never knew possible. Its when I lose site of balancing this ego with self love and respect for the process that I get smashed with a stressed out mind. I’ll begin to ask myself questions like “Why can’t you do this?!”, or “What is wrong with you today?” These may be fair questions to approach softly but when I ask myself these questions with the tone of a crazy sports dad, I’m only setting myself up for future failure and a poor response to that future failure. When I let go of my ego and expectations, I am able to better focus on the process and stay in the moment.
4) Focus on the process
Meaningful pursuits can take a long time. My pursuit of movement freedom and mastery over my stresses and anxieties is a lifelong endeavor. In fact, it has no end. I will never reach a point of perfection. It doesn’t exist. The only thing that exist is that I will continue to have to work at it everyday. If I don’t want to work at it everyday then I should stop doing it. Because the only thing that matters is the fact that I will continue to practice everyday. No two days will be alike but everyday will have a process I have to complete. Those daily processes are part of a larger, lifelong process. In essence, everything becomes a process. Now, in order to continue with the process, I have to make a choice. I can choose to accept the process and work hard/smart or I can choose to think about the process and why or why not I want to start/continue the process. Ultimately, one choice focuses on taking action and the other focuses on thinking/not doing. The only way we can be involved in a process is by doing so it seems that there is only one choice we can actually make in order to prevent anxiety.
5) Don’t forget to breathe
Training isn’t just about moving your body in complex shapes and patterns. Breathing is integral to the experience. When training gets more difficult, I will start to hold my breath and/or take shallow breaths. These short and shallow breaths can send my mind and body into a state of fight or flight. It’s often overlooked and as cliche as it may sound, focusing one breath at a time works. I specifically aim to pull oxygen from the lower lungs so it feels as if I am filling up my belly with air. Breathing more from my diaphragm versus the upper part of my chest has pulled me out of/stopped me from having panic attacks. The beauty of the breath is that its always there for us to take control of. It’s the one thing that I can focus on at any point in the day that will change my psychology and chemistry almost immediately. It’s not only beneficial for me but it’s also going to be good for those around me (and the universe!) The quote below is from Steve Maxwell. He gives excellent advice on breathing that has helped me.
“You’re connected to the Universe with every breath you take. We all share the same air. I’m breathing in electrons and atoms that you exhale and you’re breathing in mine. We’re sharing energy every breath you take. There’s this idea that we’re isolated individuals. We’re all absolutely interconnected. And that’s basically what breathing is.” – Steve Maxwell from The Second Coming of Steve Maxwell: Pranayama Breathing and Chi
Did you know that there’s a Tourettes Syndrome National Awareness month?
My guess is you probably don’t know and with good reason. It’s not something that effects a lot of us. Ya I know it seems like theres a “month for anything and everything” but this one is particularly special to me. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with this tic disorder. Finding this out was a sort of relief. I had no idea why my body always felt like it was itching all over. Why did I have to tweak my shoulders or pop my wrist consistently? Why did I have to stretch and twitch my neck in odd patterns to find relief? Why was I the only one I could see around me having this issue? Kids at school would make comments or mimic me which would bring on more stress and compound the symptoms.
Luckily, I have had an incredible support system through my life that has treated me with patience while never making me feel as if I was odd, strange, or incapable of doing anything I wanted. To say I was blessed is an understatement. Many other kids aren’t as lucky. They get bullied and picked on. Paralyzed in their own bodies, they can feel helpless. Knowing what I’ve been through and what others continue to go through has brought a sense of empathy and compassion that continues to guide my life.
Now, my tics are nowhere near as consistent and complex as they were when I was in my teens and early 20s. Now, they come out to play when i’m feeling highly stressed or anxious. This reality gives me a drive to actively seek out methods of relief. I’ve been forced into research and experimentation to avoid the cycle that can begin if I’m not conscious and proactive. Looking back through my life and analyzing where I’ve placed my efforts, nothing has provided me with more relief than playing with my body.
Movement and play have always been my places to drop in and tune out. My sense and awareness for my body in space has come naturally. I consider this to be a gift from Tourettes. Movement has always been my medicine and as time progresses, I’ve found better ways of healing with this medicine. Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to find a culture of people that understands the importance of movement and its incredible power. They’ve set a fire within me to spread this message. This is what you will usually see me posting about on here, so today, I want to shed light on all of those who are silently seeking relief.
If you don’t know someone who has TS, now you do. If you don’t care about my story, then you might care about someone else who is close to you. You may know someone with Parkinson’s, Dystonia, Tremors, or even restless legs syndrome that is experiencing a movement disorder. If we can bring awareness to Tourette’s, we can help bring awareness to a multitude of movement disorders. You may even be preemptively helping yourself or your children.
ps. Tourette Syndrome Awareness month is from May 15th – May 17th. If you’d like to learn more and support, check out the link in my bio.
pps. The awesome culture I’m talking about is at @republicofmovement. If you’re in Miami, check them out. They just opened their playground in Wynwood!