Tag Archives: responsibility

Go Out and Own It

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!

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How to Be Eccentric: Engage

Part of living an unconventional, or as I like to call it eccentric, life is to culture habits that stand out and shape your world view.  This is a mini-series on habits of eccentricity, the second is Engagement.  Check out the first part in this series on Awareness.

Be Engaged

Engagement in the world is important to being eccentric.  It is a commitment to each moment that we live, the actions that we take and the responsibility that comes with the freedoms we create.

love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it

Maya Angelou

Being engaged is taking an interest in people.

Ask about their interests, their life, their work – take a moment and actually listen and inquire on topics they are excited about.  Ask for peoples names who help you out or provide a service and give thanks for their assistance.

Engaging in our relationships requires time and devotion.  We may have to cut down on the amount of time we spend on casual relationships, but in terms of the 80/20 rule having a small core of close friends enriches our lives far more than a flighty network of acquaintances.

Taking an interest in casual acquaintances introduces us to new people, develops broad social networks, and enriches our own personality.  Reaching out to others, even if only for a moment, teaches us far more about ourselves than engaging ourselves only with those who are like us.

Being engaged is having focus.

Cultivate intensity in your interests and activities.  When you commit to a class, arrive and be aware of what is going on, give feedback and ask questions.  When you subscribe to a hobby immerse yourself in it: seek out exemplars to learn from, carry it with you and practice constantly.

Developing focus empowers us, teaches us discipline, and often leads to a more productive existence.  Our goals and aspirations become clear and attainable when we focus our energies.  With focus you can cut through the fog of distractions and minutiae that sap our energy and time and make a visible difference.

Being engaged is taking responsibility.

Your actions and choices are yours alone.  Scapegoating or blaming other people and circumstances disengages you from reality.  While your actions may not always have the outcome you desire and the world may not present the best for you, it is still you acting and being in the world.

In my own life I have often taken my freedom for granted.  While the freedoms I have, whether financially, in relationships, or educationally, have benefited me – taking those opportunities without taking on the responsibility that comes with them has taken more from me than I gained.  Understanding that my spending, my friends, my actions, and decisions are my responsibility to engage with is a frightening yet empowering aspect of life.

The weight of freedom is responsibility.

Being engaged is being present.

Imagination and daydreaming have their place but they should not take over your life.  Live now rather than for a dream of the future or a memory of the past.  Find immediacy. Waiting for the future to happen or trying to relive the past lead to disappointment.

Living now can be difficult when we have goals that we are striving for or pasts that haunt us.  When I get wrapped up in these things it is best that I take a moment and perform a physical action.  Whether it is practicing calligraphy, working out, dancing or going for a walk, engaging in a hands-on trade or activity takes me out of my head and forces me into the present.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The Buddha

Engagement

brings you closer to the world.  You have more investment in the things that are important to you.  Those activities give greater meaning to your life.  Live a richer experience, live now.

How To – Living out of a Suitcase 101

Living out of a suitcase 101

“How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Live with just that?”

What we were talking about is my suitcase.

How do I live out of one suitcase?

Here I’ll explain a little about my process of downsizing and the effort to simplify my existence by removing the burden of possessing.  In essence Living out of a Suitcase 101.

Downsizing – My Process of Liberation

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

- Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher

In a little more than a year I have gone from having an apartment full of the accoutrement of daily life (bed, desktop computer, kitchen wares, bookshelves filled with books, etc.) to living out of one carry-on sized suitcase and a messenger bag.  My initial downsizing was forced when I was denied reentry to Canada for a year.  My following downsizing has been by choice.

I moved to New York City in January 2008 with a rolling garment bag, a smaller suitcase, and my Chrome messenger bag.  I lived with friends for two months while I searched for a room of my own.  That room came in the form of a converted office adjoining a bedroom in a triplex in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.  It was six feet wide and at most ten feet in length.  I had a large window to a balcony, a scavenged end table and bookshelf (as dresser), and slept on an air mattress.

November 2008 I was laid off.  Relationship came to an end.  I had no reason to stay in the City or the Northeast for that matter.  Within two weeks I had decided to leave New York and try my hand at vagabonding.  My process of liberation was at hand.

Simplicity – Breaking the Chains of Attachment

Chains How To   Living out of a Suitcase 101

Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants. . . . Our forefathers forged chains of duty and habit, which bind us notwitstanding our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation, add link to link, groaning and making medicinal laws for relief.

-John Muir, Kindred and Related Spirits

On the road it is is justifiably more difficult to live with an excess of things.  There is the sheer physical weight of carrying your stuff from one place to another but ever more burdening is the attachment to possessing.

Attachment to possessing burdens me whether I am vagabonding or working in an office 9 to 5. It is easy to fall prey to, and I have no exception to this weakness.  It is already an old adage that we are bombarded by advertisements, that we live in a society of consumption, and that we measure ourselves by the things we have.

Breaking out of this perspective is our first step.

To do this I took a cue from Aristotle. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  To live more simply I had to act by breaking the chains of attachment.

The initial action is often the hardest.

Confronting the prospect of going through my possessions and classifying them as donation, junk, store, or take was daunting.  I was amazed at the accumulation of things that were mine, and it is still not all whittled away.  Where did I start?

Just go and don’t ask questions.

Rather than debate each item, I attacked the problem as aggressively as I could throwing things into piles based on my initial reaction.

Going with your gut, or, the Ready, Fire, Aim method is the quickest way to get started.  You can always backtrack a bit and move things around later but your biggest obstacle is starting.

I had long ago realized I wore only a small percentage of my clothing regularly.  I would not miss the rest.  They were merely the outliers of my outfit regimen, benefiting me only a fraction of what they cost me in keeping.  Those few items I believed would be required later in the future were pressed into storage, the rest bagged and donated.

As for the rest of my possessions, very few of the things that I had would benefit me on the road.  With my Macbook Pro and iPhone I had all the necessary means for communication and working covered.  I had a copy of Vagabonding, a notebook, a safety razor and a few odds-and-ends.  Anything else I have needed I have picked up on the way or borrowed.

Now What – Living out of a Suitcase

Once you’ve cut out all of those non-essentials looking at your suitcase or backpack as the only burden on the road will make the road ahead appear closer, more accessible and lighthearted.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.

-Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

This simplicity gives us liberation.  Taking responsibility of the things we possess and reducing that to an understandable level gives us freedom to live.

We become eccentric.  Unconventional.  Foolish.  Free.