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Words to Live Your Life By

Posted on 15 September 2009 by Carl

3174839833 14cc67a73e d Words to Live Your Life By

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

That depends a good deal on where you want to go, said the Cat.

I don’t much care where, said Alice.

Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll

Do you much care where you are going?

I’m sure you do.  If you’re reading this you’re probably much more interested in where you are in your life and where you are going that the majority of people I meet.  Perhaps that rings of a bit of cynicism for the general populace – regardless.

Living your life with a certain care, a certain aesthetic or design requires a conscious choice of the values that will guide us.  Otherwise we are asking for directions without having a sense where we should be going.  We need not be as blithely unaware as Alice though.

So how do we determine our values?

There are many ways, but this is one way I find effective for myself.

Find a quiet space for yourself where you can sit and contemplate.  This may be headphones in during your lunch break, in the park, in your favorite arm chair – whatever is truly comfortable for you.

Close your eyes (after you’ve finished reading this).

Take one, two, three slow deep breathes.  With each inhale let your body relax and fill with calm.  With each exhale let go of the troubles of your day, the worries and the practicalities.  You can get back to them later.

Think about this question: What values do I seek to embody?

Turn it over in your mind, stretch it out, look at it from as many angles as you want.  This question is about you. Not your work, your family, or your art.

Picture the person you are in five years – wiser, experienced, learned.

What values does that person embody?

Open your eyes, write down anything that came to your mind.  Spend a few minutes writing these things down.

Now look at your list and determine common themes.  Repackage them into groups by connecting them with arrows or circling them together.

For each group write out a sentence or two about what that group of kindred values means to you.  By giving your value groups specific meaning clarifies what it is embody those values for you.

Words are merely jumbled letters unless meaning is attached.

In determining the meaning for each of your value groups you will realize some values are more shallow or less important than others.  Select the top five or six value groups that you seek to embody.  Clarify them further.

Repeat this exercise on occasion. At the beginning you may notice your values are material or connected to things in the world, as you repeat this exercise you will find that they become more about who you are.

If you want to see my values which I re-examined recently, click here.

Flickr photo by Kelsey Shay.

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Are You Ready to Make a Sacrifice? (goats not included)

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Carl

3095328182 c52bba4b61 b d Are You Ready to Make a Sacrifice? (goats not included)

To have anything in life, you have to give something up.

That’s the way it is.

A liberated existence comes with the burden of conscious choice and with conscious choice comes the understanding of what you sacrifice to gain something. This applies across the board – finances, relationships, work, play.

My own choice to vagabond through the U.S. – and soon abroad – was a deliberate one.  I put a constant home on the block and struck it down myself.  I did not know what other sacrifices that it would take to maintain a life on the road – but as each comes up I learn and accept each for what they are.

Some are easier to let go of – not always having a comfortable bed, while others are harder to deal with – letting go of the possibility of a long term relationship.  Yet the vagabond life is one I have chosen and still pursue. It is an honest part of who I am right now and forcing myself to deny that would take me away from my path.

What have you put on the block?

Similarly, to choose self employment over a regular job is to sacrifice the goat of security.  That security comes in the form of a regular paycheck, company health insurance, colleague banter we all pine for (maybe not), and so on.  We sacrifice the security of being taken care of by a company for the freedom self employment offers.  With that freedom we take on the responsibilities that were taken care of by the company – finding clients, paying for health care, finding collaborators on projects, etc.

What is your goat a symbol of?

There are many examples of things that we offer up as sacrifices yet understanding what we gain and what we have given up is important.  Whether our sacrifices are for our sanity, our health, our freedom, our security – the choice is ours to make.

What would your sacrifice afford you the freedom to do?

Why haven’t you done it yet?

Flickr photo by Melissa Maples.

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We’re All Full of Shit – David Duchovny Would Agree

Posted on 18 August 2009 by Carl

90705344 7fd0ce01ee d Were All Full of Shit   David Duchovny Would Agree

Live any honestly self reflective life and you’ll have this thought:

“I’m full of shit.”

Occasionally paired with this thought:

“I hope no one else notices.”

I know I do.  More often than I’d like actually.

So where is all this coming from?  Clay brought it up when we met up for brunch on my roadtrip.

“People are full of shit.” That’s what he said.

I laughed.  I knew it was true.

Look at it this way.  There is this epic joke that one day people are going to catch on to.  That I’ve really no clue as to how to live and have just been ranting and raving lunatic things.  That’s how I’m certain it looks.  We’re on the edge – our unconventional lifestyles, vagabonding, freedom businesses, liberation manifestos, working for no man…  we teeter very close to lunacy (not that I mind).

So we’ve got to push the joke past the limits.  You’ve got to believe your own joke.

Really, that’s it.  Being the real deal is doing it even when you don’t believe yourself.  You’ve got a mission, the hard facts of life, and the road before you.  If the words that come out of your mouth feel fake – fake it.  Sometimes to be the real deal we have to act it, like David Duchovny.

That’s right.  You’ve got to be so full of it that you can fool yourself into believing it’s possible.  That’s your game.  It isn’t just positive affirmations and productivity tools it’s about action in the face of self doubt.

Once you’ve got that.  You’ve got it.

As long as you’re the only person to catch on – good – the longer you can get away with it.

Cause, really, we’re all full of shit.

Flickr photo courtesy of danny.hammontree.

Also, this post in no way has been endorsed by David Duchovny – even though I think it should be.

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Challenge: Start Your Day with a Cold Shower

Posted on 18 June 2009 by Carl

One who bathes willingly with cold water doesn’t feel the cold.

Misogi Tsubaki Jinja Challenge: Start Your Day with a Cold ShowerWhile I might not be as intense about it as this Shinto practitioner, bathing in cold water is an invigorating exercise which I perform almost every time I shower.

While there are many health benefits to exposing yourself to cold water, from helping circulation to easing fibromyalgia symptoms, I think of it in terms of an act of voluntary discomfort.

Start your day with an act of courage.

Stepping into cold water is something we normally associate with hardened warriors in cheesy martial arts films who strive for mental and physical perfection.  In a way it’s a correct assumption.

Misogi is a Shinto practice of purification.  The most common being water misogi where practitioners stand in a waterfall.  It is a practice to purify the spirit and the body.

Many spiritual and physical practices including yoga and aikido endorse cold water immersion.  And can you really argue with the Polar Bear Club?

I can’t.

There are many health benefits associated with cold showers.

  • Increases blood flow to your organs and circulation throughout your body.
  • Helps eliminate toxins from the body due to increased circulation and contraction of the muscles.
  • Increases your white blood cell count.
  • Boosts your immune system by strengthening mucous membranes.
  • Gives you healthier hair by closing the cuticle in a similar manner to your skin.
  • Gives you better looking skin by constricting the blood vessels and reducing swelling.
  • Makes your body acclimate faster to cold temperatures keeping you warmer.

Let’s not forget we’re not likely to linger in a cold shower so we save water in our daily routine.

On top of that stepping into cold water is an invigorating burst to your routine.  It’s energizing; a real rush everytime.

I step out of the shower ready to face the world.

By living through minor discomforts regularly you’ll grow more confident that you can cope with major discomforts as well. Such a major future event will no longer be a source of anxiety.

Christiaan @ Mind The Beginner

Here’s my challenge to you.

Start your day with an act of courage.

For the next 31 days take a cold shower.

If you’re not ready to jump headfirst into a frozen lake (I know I wasn’t) here’s a way to ease yourself in.

Take your regular shower.

Before you step out, change the temperature to something just below where you are comfortable.  It doesn’t have to be ice cold but just enough to be uncomfortable.

Stand there until you feel relatively warm again.  This is your body reacting to the cold water and heating itself up.

You’re done.  Finish your shower and emerge into the world.

Each day go a little colder.

This is an exercise in voluntary discomfort.

At first it will feel like self-inflicted torture but by the end of the month you’ll be loving the rush you get from the cold water.

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Slacker Reform History Round Up

Posted on 17 June 2009 by Carl

For many of you Slacker Reform is relatively new to you, however it began in earnest back in 2008 as a Wordpress hosted blog as personal outlet for my development.  It has since shifted focus into helping create a revolution of Slackers bent on finding their passions and doing what calls to us and not what is assumed by society.

So here is a round up of some of the most popular articles from Slacker Reform’s history and some worth exploring.

Back in November I found this TED talk with IDEOs CEO Tim Brown on Creativity and Play.  While the talk is highly entertaining it is deeply insightful on how adults often stifle the urge to play.  Are we that afraid of being appropriate all the time?

December found me with the urge to play and Play Auditorium, an exceptional game from Cipher Prime, hooked me in with the beta.  It is now out in full release with 70 plus levels blending music, physics and problem solving all in one.

In January I was dancing a lot and an article by Garr Reynolds caught my attention on Wynton Marsalis’s book on how jazz music can be the catalyst for change in your life.  Finding an improvisational form of art which requires a high degree of skill really opens up your personality in ways you wouldn’t expect.

The 3-2-1 Method is more a trick of the mind than a system of productivity.  It’s a way to get over that little mental roadblock that stops you from starting.  I’m no productivity guru and I never want to be but this one definitely helps me keep some of the easy mundane tasks in check.

In February I found myself explaining my vagabond life to people more and more so I wrote the How To: Living Out of a Suitcase 101 guide to help explain it.  While I recently talked about this process in my most recent video blog, this How To is much more detailed on how I went from having a full apartment in Montreal to living out of a suitcase and vagabonding through the U.S.

Thanks to a Christmas gift I took up calligraphy in January and by March I was practicing regularly.  It helped me find peace of mind when I struggled with loneliness and lack of focus.  This is how calligraphy helps me clear my mind.

April was a busier month at Slacker Reform.  I reviewed Jonathan Mead’s e-book Reclaim Your Dreams.  I wrote about making sure It’s Our Time and Our Focus that matters in maintaining momentum.  And I called out three Nonconformists who really stand out: Clay Collins, Chris Guillebeau and Jonathan Mead.  Two of whom I’ve recently interviewed and Chris is on the list to be interviewed soon.

I skipped May entirely.  Actually I told you to Skip Work or School or Life and walk the world a while.  You could even tell your boss (or other authority figure dictating your time) to e-mail me since I gave you permission to say “I Don’t Care [today is for me]“.

And while it is still June, I’ve been videoblogging more consistently and while it’s a new trick for me, Tricks Are For Kids.

If you’ve enjoyed any of these articles please Stumble This.

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Go Out and Own It

Posted on 15 April 2009 by Carl

Ownership.

I hear that word and I don’t think of a car dealership or a mortgage.

I think of how I represent in my actions.

In lindy hop there is a difference between a dancer who can own it and one who can’t. When you own your movement your intention is clear and present.

If you don’t own it you can have the flashiest trick but you won’t win the crowd the way a dancer who merely walks but owns every step.

I struggled for a very long time understanding ownership in my own life. As someone quite capable in most of my pursuits I didn’t need to take responsibility and represent in my actions. Moderate success (which was passable) came to me. Yet I never truly excelled or connected with what I did.

I believed I didn’t need to invest the effort to do it right.

I lacked ownership

At some point I had to take accountability, responsibility and ultimately ownership of my actions or accept a life of mediocrity.

Claim the events of your life! When you posses all you have been and done, you are fierce with reality.

Florida Scott-Maxwell

Recently this has been most evident in my financial life. I talked about saving or watching where my money went but until I finally held myself accountable and took ownership of my finances I struggled with overdrafts, bounced checks, and overspending.

The minute I took ownership of my financial life by creating a balance sheet for all of my accounts in which I recorded every cent I spent whether cash, credit or debit and every one I earned, my financial life turned upside down (or right side up really).

I almost immediately stopped overdrafting.

I put money into an ING Direct savings account (which I don’t touch).

I paid down my credit card debt (it is my goal by the end of 2009 to be consumer debt free).

Most importantly:

I felt empowered.

Taking ownership of my finances had given me power and confidence over a section of my life that always made me feel uncomfortable.

Become fierce with reality.

Power is in representing in your actions. When you put yourself forward, put your whole self forward. Leave nothing in question when you take an action.

Go out and own it!

If you liked this post please share it on Twitter or Stumble It!

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Play Auditorium – An Exercise in Play and Creativity

Posted on 05 December 2008 by Carl

Play Auditorium is a spectacular puzzle game created in Flash by CipherPrime.

It combines excellent graphic design with an intuitive and simple interface and a fascinating puzzle concept.

The concept centers around redirecting a stream of sound particles to VU meters using directional objects.  When all of the VU meters on the level are maxxed out you progress to the next level.

Initially you have only white sound particles and your directional objects are limited to relative directions (up, down, left, right) but as you progress through the levels additional colors are added to match alternate VU meters and gravity objects become available.  It seems in the full game many more options and challenges will be included.

I could describe it more but seeing is believing – this clip is of one of the last levels in the demo.

What’s most fascinating is the simplicity of the interface and the interplay of visual objects with sound objects.  These three elements along with the immediate affect your control has over those objects draws you in.

I’ve found myself going back and playing it again and again as I attempt to work out different solutions to the puzzles.  While not necessarily a productivity tool it evokes playful behavior which can be all too lacking in our everyday.

The TED Talk by Tim Brown points out the effectiveness play can have in the creative workplace and PlayAuditorium brings excellent design and playfulness together.

It’s currently in beta awaiting a full release a full 70 plus level game so give it a play.

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Tim Brown on Creativity and Play

Posted on 24 November 2008 by Carl

This is a great presentation by Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo, on the role creativity and play should have in the design process and the work environment.  It is fascinating to explore how we often leave the openness of play behind as we become adults.  That it is that willingness to make believe which enables the birth of great ideas.

All too often apologies are issued for mistakes which are really no more than experimentation, that pushes the boundaries, those same mistakes which enable us to grow.  Is it really the mistake that we are apologizing for or our embarrassment?

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