Be Your Best You: Eliminate Baggage

My friends and family know that I wear my heart on my sleeve.

And that’s just the way that I am and the way that I’ll always be.

edit: As I read this two and a half years later, I can’t help but realize the danger in making binary / black and white thinking, i.e., “And that’s just the way that I am and the way that I’ll always be.” Life doesn’t have to be like that, because when we think like that we corner ourselves in. / edit

For awhile I developed an envious admiration for people who were more guarded with their feelings than I was. And not just guarded – but detached to the point of being cold and distant.

Definitely not a healthy model in retrospect – but at the time I had grown to feel that I was a victim of my relationships and that my emotions were holding me hostage.

I saw these people as superior because they didn’t seem to feel the pain that I felt and they didn’t seem susceptible to falling victim to the trials of life in the way that I did – because I was more vulnerable to being hurt as a result of my open hearted and emotional nature.

Sounds messy – and it is when you see yourself like that. You start rebelling against who you are in the way that only adults do.

So, I did that. I told myself things. Because I had to. I told myself not to feel that way, not to be that way, and I backed it up with a host of reasons why I knew better than to be ‘an idiot’.

Other people told me how to be as well. I even convinced myself that if I followed their advice that I could master life and I could master relationships.

I would grow up and mature – I’d become different.

Because being a nice guy and feeling feelings wasn’t the way to get girls and be alpha and be independent and everything else the people I attracted into my life expected of me.

So, how did that work out for me? Well – I’m happy to report that I’m back to being a sweet, open hearted idiot.

One of the big paradigms I have in the way I view life, is that I think our truest nature (not personality or behavior – but our nature) is closest to our nature as children.

Healthy children aren’t afraid to love. They aren’t focused on changing who they are so that they can handle life better. They are just immersed in living life.

Their beliefs are still largely rooted in their personalities and their feelings rather than being based on their experiences and their dispositions about life.

They are still exploring life through an open mind, an open heart, and open eyes.

They have yet to develop attitudes about life as a consequence of negative experiences and painful emotions.

‘People are bad’ or ‘men are pigs’ or ‘women are shallow’ and all the other disempowering beliefs and attitudes that we have let corrupt our true nature, which for many of us – is a distant memory.

This is just baggage. We all collect it. Attitudes about our feelings. Learned justification for our perceptions and the cure for our perceived ‘naïveté, which we use as an excuse as to why we didn’t previously perceive things in the same manner.

‘We were just naive’.

That’s what we tell ourselves. And it helps us feel better, because it wasn’t our fault – we didn’t know better and now we know better and we won’t get hurt and be so naive again.

And this continues throughout the years. But we don’t view it as baggage. We view it as a better understanding of life. More experience and more maturity. But those are misnomers.

We are really just becoming more old and bitter.

True understanding, experience, and maturity opens the heart – never closing it. It swells the heart.

Baggage – let’s call it what it is – closes the heart, closes the mind, and further distances ourselves from the freedom we had as children.

Before life happened to us. Before we ‘knew what we know now’.

But wait, you aren’t bitter – you’re realistic. ‘People really are in it for themselves and money is the most important thing to them and girls care more about security than love, or all guys care about is sex’.

Guess what – those learned beliefs are baggage. The list goes on and on and it’s different for everyone, but we all have it. Some of it was taught to us by our parents, some of it learned, but all of it invented for the same purpose – to protect us from negative experiences and emotions.

I don’t care how many of your friends feel the same way, or how many times you have seen evidence of your beliefs being true – it’s still baggage.

Whatever it is you have come to believe about life that does not empower you is baggage.

And baggage is a dangerous thing for that reason; It’s very disempowering.

We attract people into our lives based mainly on shared beliefs. That’s just the nature of social spheres and the power of beliefs as a tool to unite and divide people.

So, we are drawn to people who ‘feel our pain’, because it’s human nature to seek empathy and understanding. Misery loves company for a reason.

And our beliefs shape our perceptions of the world. They literally shape the way we see things. They can empower us to have empathy for the way others are and to understand the weight of society on each of us, or they can disempower us to stereotype people – and to judge others based on our expectations and assumptions.

But it’s all based in our beliefs. Belief shapes perception, perception shapes reality. Somewhere between perception and reality our interactions are playing themselves out according to the ‘rules of life’ that we’ve come to adopt. Our baggage.

Because baggage tends to play itself out like that. We tend to recreate situations where our baggage gains more evidence and validation.

That’s just the law of attraction. I wish I could attempt to eloquently explain it – but I’ll just settle on saying that our beliefs are the most powerful shaping force in our lives.

So, you can be bitter and miserable: You can base your judgement on these beliefs and judge others for their naïveté. You can behave according to your beliefs and lament the behavior of others. You can attract like minded people into your life and you can clash with those who are different. And you can live a life fueled by resentment.

Or you can be naïve and happy: You can free yourself from the confines of your baggage and the constant need to provide supporting evidence through judgement. You can behave according to your true, authentic-self and find perspective in the behavior of others. You can attract other open-minded individuals into your life and accept those who are different. And you can live a life fueled by childlike wonder.

What’s on Your Bucket List for Today?

Life. John Lennon said it’s what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.

I’ve come to realize the truth in that. I’ve spent years on a road to nowhere. Because that was how I viewed life – as a journey, either on or off my path.

But life doesn’t feel underfoot easily, and we seldom enjoy the present in the capacity that we are capable of. A journey, but to what end? To what implied destination? Death. Likely. Our goals – some of them, but the journey continues. We walk, we trudge, we crawl, we fall down, we get back up, we pick up scars and bruises, and sometimes, we effortlessly glide for those fleeting moments when we actually get what we want. That’s rare though. I’m not meaning to be pessimistic, as glum as this all very likely sounds, no – I’m being a realist. Life as a journey sucks.

So, I’ve traded in metaphors. Life is a sea. We’re not on a path, we’re in a boat. Our boat is the present day, and the present moments we are given within each day we get to breathe and live on this mysterious, lonely planet.

Until we die. Our boat doesn’t float forever. The thing is though, we don’t know when our time will be up.

We may think our world is civilized and the future is as certain as old age, but it’s not. There have been some terrible, terrible things that have happened lately.

The Boston Marathon attacks, whose fatalities included an 8 year old boy and a 29 year old woman, the limo fire, which claimed a newlywed bride and her four friends, and most recently the news of three kidnapping victims who escaped after 10 years in captivity.

Things like this seem senseless and random, and we think how fortunate we are to be alive. How ‘lucky’ we are.

It’s not luck. Those were daughters, and lovers, and friends. Just like us and ours.

It’s a blessing. Just life. Just to be alive. And not just because ‘we never know when our time is up’, but because we were created in the very first place. Just the probability that ‘WE’ got to get a chance to enter this world is astonishing.

It is literally an earth shattering miracle.

Probability of your being born: one in 102,685,000

As a comparison, the approximate number of atoms in the known universe is 1080.

So what’s the probability of your being born? It’s the probability of 2.5 million people getting together — about the population of San Diego — each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice — and they all come up the exact same number — say, 550,343,279,001.

A miracle is an event so unlikely as to be almost impossible. By that definition, I’ve just proven that you are a miracle.

Now go forth and feel and act like the miracle that you are.

So, are you ready to be a living miracle today? I am. Right now.

And I’m not here to spend my life trading in every today for the promise of tomorrow. And trading months for next season, and years for seasons of our lives.

Eventually, it’s all gone. We will be dead. Well, after we have spent our lives trying to get somewhere because we were too fucking stupid to see that we will fade. 

Our bones will lie against the soil and ageless water will rain down on a foreign world above us. Maybe oneday someone will dig us up, but probably not. We’ll just be underground, with the billions that have died before us.

Now that I’ve taken morbidity to a whole new level of wry and despondent fatalism, let’s return to the real world, where our hearts are beating and we have today to read articles on TMZ and work jobs we hate.

But, wait you say – I have goals. I have a bucket list.

That’s great. As a piece of shit metaphor from crappy movie.

But, as a way of life, it’s about two steps up from YOLO.

I’ve lived according to both strategies. I’ve worked as hard as the squirrel and done things that were bucket-worthy as a reward, and I’ve attempted to embody the YOLO lifestyle with little more than less money and braincells to show for it – withstanding a few good stories, but mostly crappy ones.

However, I’m maturing. Which to me primarily means looking ahead to the future and thinking about others. And within my expanded perspective, I’ve come to see that YOLO (You Only Live Once) isn’t about getting shitfaced and making an ass out of yourself and tarnishing your reputation/self-worth – no, it’s about doing the things that actually matter to you.

So today, I find myself in a boat that I’m learning how to maneuver. My toolkit has expanded and I can deal with the unexpected gales that life throws at me. I know that whatever happens, I will choose to be okay and that will give me the power I need to affect change in my own life.

And it’s working for me. I’m using a lot of the lessons and experienced I have been so blessed to receive in life. And I’m accomplishing things, which matters to me. I am sailing this boat g-ddamnit. And although I may not control the seas or the weather, my rank is Captain and that gives me control over everything I need to be happy.

So why am I not?

Surprisingly, I know the answer. It’s because I have too many years and not enough days. And in the short run, I have too many days and not enough moments. I’m not doing enough to be happy now. Sure, I might have had some good years, but the days weren’t that great.

And the moments were too fleeting and too few and far in-between.

And that’s what life’s about, the moments.

Think back on a time when you were really, really happy. Truly happy.

Maybe you were watching an amazing movie with someone you love. Maybe you were eating a sandwich and reading a book. And if there was a time when you were really, truly happy – it was probably interspersed with many beautiful moments.

But, chances are, it wasn’t yesterday. lol

Why not?

Seriously, why not.

Oh yeah – life. That journey you’re on boat you’re in.

You see, we measure the quality of our lives in a manner that automatically sets us up to be unhappy.

In the business world, we use metrics to measure things. These are usually things like profit, growth, and income. Things that we can measure, track and compare against other tangible stuff.

In our lives, we use a similarly shallow and fatalistic system.

Because happiness (being the assumed goal of life) isn’t about things or stuff. And that’s the problem. It’s like the The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where they ask “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?” And they get the answer, which turns out to be 42. Which, of course makes no sense to them. Because they don’t really know what the question is.

I have a radical concept for you. I want you to look at how you really are measuring your life. Just give 4 or 5 things. They probably include things like ‘job / career satisfaction, relationships, and maybe your goals.

If you are unsure, or maybe feel that they don’t include those things, just look back at the past year and see where your dissatisfaction is. It’s probably similarly based in other worldly issues that we have learned from society. Those are our metrics.

Well, here’s the radical concept.

I want you to think about measuring your life in moments. And the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything, is simply: Are you living a lifestyle that provides you with enough of those moments to be happy. True happiness.

I don’t care what the answer is, because it’s no. Our lives look different, but we have the same problems. We all have our own hopes and dreams and fears and we are all just living life. But we’re still stuck in the society based metrics. But guess what, we can’t escape our lives.

The problem with the pursuit of happiness is that we focus on improving our circumstances, which – despite being effective when things work out – typically causes us to work harder, to feel increased pressure, to be harder on ourselves – and as John Lennon said – life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

In other words, it’s passing us by while we’re planning for other things. But there is a simple solution.

Your Daily Bucket List.

That’s it. Because – we’ve tried to make more money, to be in better shape, to kick our bad habits, to be a better person, and don’t get me wrong, those things are great and they generally increase happiness, but true happiness – that’s in the moments.

I’m not going to tell you that those society based metrics are useless and you should wear patchouli and stop working so hard. This isn’t four hour work-week. I’m not going to tell you to not be all you can be. But what I am telling you is that you could be happy without all that, and that in doing so, your improved quality of life will enable you to better achieve the goals and plans you have.

You just need to make those moments happen. That’s what your daily bucket list is about. But how can I watch the Lion King when I was 12 with my dad again, you ask. I’m not asking you to just make awesome, amazing moments a part of your life.

I’m telling you to make the little moments a part of your life. The things that make you happy. The things that matter to you. If you do that, your lifestyle will make all the bigger and brighter moments come naturally.

You see, I’ve spent my entire life trying to be happy. And I’ve tried so hard that I’ve managed to master misery in the process. But I’ve finally come to see that it’s the moments in life that matter. So, I’ve come up with the concept of the daily bucket list as a way of ensuring my day has enough moments.

When I said that I had managed to master misery in the process of trying to be happy, what I meant was that I found myself working so hard and focused so much on living a life based on society based metrics, that I didn’t have a lifestyle that brought me happiness through the things that gave me moments of happiness – so no matter if I was rich or poor, I wasn’t taking the present day and doing things that mattered to me. The moments. (Don’t steal that as a book title – it’s mine).

It’s like that Dove chocolate commercial, where the girl has a piece of chocolate and suddenly she suddenly is having a silent orgasm on flowing silk-chocolate sheets.

That was her moment. And that’s kind of how mine work too. Just stupid little things that make me feel good. And some of them, like taking vitamins, don’t provide any immediate gratification – but they are a practice that brings me satisfaction because I’m doing something good for my body.

So I’ve created this concept of moments or a daily bucket list, not because I had some aha realization that I wanted to do the things that mattered – no, the misery of not doing them simply became too painful to continue living a life that was passing me by without me doing the things that brought me peace and joy – no matter how small.

I can’t not work 12-15 hours tomorrow, that’s just what I have to do, and the people who know me, know that that’s a short day for me. But I can’t let life stop me from living it. Because before you know it, that’s your life. But it’s not that quick and easy, it’s more like the days turn to weeks, which turn to years, which turn to never.

So to start living life in the moment, you need to make the moments a part of your life.

You need to figure out what your moments are. To me it was pretty simple; I know the things that are important to my happiness. They were all the things I loved but never did.

The kind of things you put on a match.com profile, ‘I love reading and sailing and taking hikes’. But in reality, you’ve finished 2 books in 7 months, and haven’t sailed since last year, and rarely hike. You’re actually just a miserable sob who get’s drunk when he’s had enough of running on the rat wheel. lol

I’ll just give you a short list of some of the things that matter to me and that if I never did with enough consistency because I let life get in the way.

  • Eating a healthy breakfast
  • Drinking Water
  • Taking Vitamins
  • Listening to Music
  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Walking
  • Gym
  • Working
  • Romance
  • Talking to My Family
  • Keeping My House Clean
  • Calling a Friend
  • Exploring the City
  • Running
  • Going to New Restaurants

Maybe those things sound really average and basic, but they’re some of my most important moments.

Maybe yours are when you paint your nails, or get coffee with a friend, or eat a fresh salad, or whatever makes you happy.

I just have worked more 20 hour days in the past year than I care to count. And I need my moments to be happy. I have to make time for me. And that’s what makes me happy and that’s what’s working for me.

I now end the most anti-climactic blog post ever. It’s 4:30am, I’m dog tired and I’ve got to get up tomorrow and work another day – but I’ll be damned if I don’t take a few moments for myself – because that’s how I measure the quality of my life, in the moments.

Real Life Inspiration: Donald Glover, Renaissance Man

DGDonald Glover – AKA Childish Gambino is a true Renaissance man. He started writing for 30 Rock while still in College, where he wrote some of the show’s best lines.

He then left 30 Rock and moved from NY to CA, where he got an acting job on Community. An unlikely rapper, he started recording music and releases and performs under the moniker Childish Gambino. The man is currently writing a couple movies and has nothing but success laid out ahead of him. Definitely somebody worth admiring.

Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz, I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.

For another look at his music and the depth of his artistry, listen to Kids: