Are You Addicted To Something That Doesn’t Even Exist?

Hi, my name is Peter, and I’m an addict.

I’m addicted to security.

Security in my job, finances, relationships, lifestyle, health, social status…

I can never get enough security, and I’ve discovered the reason: Security doesn’t exist.

I guess I’m addicted to the feeling of security then.

I feed my addiction using a number of things:

  • How many cool stories I have to tell.
  • How good my performance reviews at work are.
  • How high my grades have been.
  • How much I’ve traveled.
  • How good at making friends I am.
  • How much people admire me.
  • How good I am at public speaking.
  • How successful I am at my work.
  • How much money is in my savings account.
  • How many people are reading this blog post.

Here’s the problem. None of that is real security. None of it makes me safe.

Where do you look for your security?

Does any of it really make you safe?

Think back to goals you’ve set and achieved. Accomplishments you thought would make you feel secure. A salary. A relationship. An award.

Now that you’ve accomplished it, are you secure?

The richest people in the world have gone broke.

The healthiest people in the world have become sick.

The smartest people in the world have lost their minds.

The best athletes in the world have grown old.

The biggest celebrities in the world have fallen from grace.

And everyone–rich and poor, young and old, smart and dumb–all kinds of people that have ever lived have lost their lives to freak accidents, crime, and natural disasters.

Nobody is secure.

But every day, I desperately desire security.

Which means I live my life every day full of a soul-crushing emotion: Worry.

What if I were to just stop every once in a while–stop worrying, let go, and experience a life without the need for this mythical “security?” Then maybe I’d open my eyes and see the world for what it is. A beautiful piece of art. An incredible experience as long as I’m blessed to be here.

“Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come. Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out. Don’t try to make anything happen. Relax, right now, and rest.” – Tilopa

It’s time to end our addiction.

“For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe.” – Larry Eisenberg

Here’s a final thought to chew on (feel free to chew on it by commenting):

If security doesn’t exist, can INSECURITY really exist?

Maybe, just maybe, every little thing actually is going to be all right.

Do Your Stories Still Define You?

Do you ever feel powerless? Do you ever feel like a little kid again? Hurt and alone? Do you feel like the world is just too much to handle?

Someone says something and it triggers a memory. A memory of a feeling. It triggers the feeling itself. When your dad screamed at you. When your teacher told you that you’d never amount to anything. When you choked up in speech class and everyone teased you about it. When you learned your best friend had betrayed you. When you lost a family member?

You re-experience the trauma. And it affects you again. And again. And again. You’re damaged.

There’s a reason every therapist asks you what happened in your childhood. Adults have big feelings, too, and they’re usually feelings we developed when we were younger, and things happened to us. We almost never experience a feeling for the first time. We hear something said, or see something happen, that tears open old scars.

And usually it breaks us down again. As an experienced, mature adult you suddenly feel again like a powerless child. Because your past hurts have come alive again.

The more we dwell on our past hurts, the more they keep hurting. Past experiences can hit you in the gut every single day for your entire life. And the more you take those punches, the weaker and more vulnerable you become.

So we see our therapists. They ask us what happened. And we find that when we share our old secrets of trauma and sadness, we feel a sweet release.

The other day something occurred to me, and I thought I should share it–might help somebody reading this…

Each of us has a life story. And most of our stories are, in some big ways, painful and sad.

I think I had a lot to overcome. Some unfortunate circumstances left me feeling very alone and crushed as I transitioned into adulthood. I had an extremely tough time trusting anybody to mean well or show love unconditionally. I had the distinct impression that I was pretty much a loser. I’d never get anything right, never be great at stuff, always be awkward.

I was just not good enough.

I struggled a lot with this. A lot. I still do sometimes.

Just like you. Right? Doesn’t it resonate? Everyone seems to go through the same ordeal. Different characters, different plot, but the exact same hurt.

Now here’s where it starts getting complicated. I developed a habit for self-preservation–a defense mechanism–and I didn’t realize the effect it was having:

As I grew up and started becoming an independent person, I told everyone, very often, all about how hurt I had been. And of course I did a lot of blaming my hurtful stories on others. Why was I so socially awkward (I thought)? Here’s why. It’s their fault! Why was I so sensitive (I kept reminding myself)? This is why. They hurt me!

And my new friends and acquaintances would feel for me. They’d be very sympathetic. They’d be extremely proud of me for being so strong. They were all very impressed.

And it helped me. It was a great band-aid, and maybe one I really needed. It turned wounds into scars. But guess what else it did: It kept me focused on those scars.

Whenever I told people how hard I had to work on this and that, what I had to go through, to get where I wanted to go–they were all impressed. But every time I re-lived things, I felt like the hurt version of me. The damaged me.

In others’ eyes, I was becoming this strong, independent, awesome person!

In my own heart, I was stuck as a kid who had a lot of crap thrown at him.

My past hurts defined me. My stories defined me. My scars defined me.

I didn’t even stop telling my stories all the time because I realized what it was doing to me. At the time, I didn’t. It just made me feel better, and it impressed people.

I stopped telling my stories simply because I was embarrassed. The more often I heard myself looking for a pat on the back, sharing a sob story, the more I thought, “You talk about yourself a lot!” So I just got embarrassed and started keeping it to myself more often.

Something strange started to happen the less I talked about and focused on my past: I grew stronger. I felt free. Life got better. I became happier.

I don’t think I realized the effect my story-telling had until later. In fact, it’s what occurred to me so clearly the other day–it’s been years, and I haven’t seen the pattern so clearly until now.

So take some encouragement from me if you can today:

Your hurt is real. Your scars are real. And you can’t carry the memories on your own.

BUT: You are not your past. You are who you decide to be today. Don’t let your past hurt keep you hurt. Don’t let your stories define you. Embrace your stories for what they’ve given you. Be humble to see that everyone has lived their own story, too. Sympathize and accept support.

But NOW–go define yourself. Be who you want to be, not what people have done to you. Be awesome.

When do you most often find yourself getting stuck on past hurts? What helps you get past them? I’d really like to hear from you.

~

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” – George O’Neil

Rip the Band-Aid Off

My manager recently sat down with me and expressed concern that I just didn’t seem like myself lately. She said I hadn’t seemed as happy and carefree as usual over the last few weeks. And she was worried it might be rubbing off on others.

Her concern was completely fair, and I think we got to the bottom of it:

In the last few weeks, there had been several projects I was working on–very sensitive projects with pretty delicate implications, so I was pretty pressured to get things just right.

More importantly, the projects were putting me in direct, daily contact with some very unhappy and uncooperative third parties.

On top of that, the projects were dragging on and on and on, and there was little I could do to fix the situations.

So I would get to work and look for this or that easy thing that needed to be done, and just hold off on dealing with the crappy stuff until later in the day. Like I was in a sort of denial–thinking maybe it would all just disappear if I waited long enough.

But it meant I was on edge a lot. It meant I was not looking forward to the rest of the day, I was dreading it. And clearly, it showed.

 

Here’s what I could have done differently: I could have ripped the band-aid off!

I should have known. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my managers say exactly that–very applicable to our line of work: “Just rip it off!”

That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from the last month or two of work. Think of it this way:

Remember being a little kid with a band-aid over your cut? After a day, you’d go to pull it off, and maaaan did it hurt!!! You’d timidly take a corner and slowly pull it back, bit by bit, millimeter by millimeter, willing the pain to subside. And with every microscopic hair that snapped, you’d clench your fists and fight your tears a little more. Surely, if you did it a little slower, it wouldn’t hurt so darn bad!!!

Then out of nowhere your mommy would reach in and grab the band-aid. You screamed in terror, but she ripped it off anyway. Fast.

… AND THE PAIN WAS GONE!

 

I promise that if you apply the same principle to your daily work, things will be easier and happier and you’ll be more productive. That’s what I’ve found over the last couple weeks.

If you have something painful to do, don’t wait: Get it over with right away!

If you do rip the band-aid off, you get to focus on good stuff the rest of the day. If you don’t, you get to dread the crappy part.

If you do rip the band-aid off, the happier you works faster and gets more done. If you don’t, you subconsciously procrastinate as long as you can.

If you do rip the band-aid off, the people around you don’t get rain-cloud vibes from you. If you don’t, your team mates will know you really just feel like going home.

 

But that lesson isn’t just about your job: Where else in your life do you need to rip a band-aid off? Is it a conversation you need to have? A habit you need to stop?

If you did just rip the band-aid off, don’t you think it would make you happier, more energetic, and more productive?

What band-aid have you ripped off recently? And which one do you know has got to go next?

Are You Worried About the State of the World? Take a Second Look…

“These are turbulent times. A quick glance at the headlines is enough to set anybody on edge and–with the endless media stream that has lately become our lives–it’s hard to get away from those headlines. Worse, evolution shaped the human brain to be acutely aware of all potential dangers. As will be explored in later chapters, this dire combination has a profound impact on human perception: It literally shuts off our ability to take in good news.

That’s the depressing but all-too-accurate first paragraph in the book Abundance, by X Prize Foundation chairman and Singularity University chairman Peter H. Diamandis, and best-selling author and journalist Steven Kotler.

The subtitle is a little more hopeful: The Future Is Better Than You Think.

I just finished this fantastic book. It was way better than I imagined. Do you worry a lot about the world? Go read Abundance!

It’s a very different book. Diamandis and Kotler are right–there is a very strong human instinct to see the negatives–the dangers, what’s incorrect, problems, etc. So it’s incredibly refreshing to read an entire book dedicated to the amazing stuff going on around the world, the stuff nobody ever talks about.

So if you have a pretty bleak outlook on the world and our future (which you probably have if you browse Facebook, watch CNN, or pretty much live in the world), do yourself a favor and read this book. It will make you happy!

It changed how I felt about the world. I don’t know if I was the most cynical person about development in the “third world.” I definitely know I was the most cynical person about the (in)humanity in our world. But after reading this book, I feel much more excited. Very relieved. It’s very eye-opening.

A few new ideas it has left me with…

– The cutting edge technological advances in this world are quickly making problems of basic living very much a thing of the past. There’s a lot more technology already available and being used for good than most of us are aware of.

– Today’s world is full of some incredibly well meaning wealthy do-gooders, who have determined to attack problems of basic living needs around the world. There are incredible programs already in place, and the structures being developed for business, education, and communication are being geared more and more towards encouraging effective charity.

– A “futuristic,” insanely cool new world isn’t that far off. Things like medical care robots and printers at home that can create any old things–those are all a lot more here already than most of us realize. And, that world isn’t necessarily as scary as everyone thinks.

– We don’t have to wait for the government to take big strides forward like we have throughout a lot of history. Simple people like you and me are taking advantage of access to resources and tools of innovation that the world has never seen before.

– Progress is pretty insanely exponential. The needs and problems around the world still seem like a heck of a lot, but it’s amazing the chain reaction that little inventions and advances here and there are having to solve hundreds and thousands more problems than they were originally intended to solve.

Chin up! Things are getting better than your TV tells you!

10 Important Lessons Life Has Taught Me So Far

About five years ago I did two things that changed the course of my life and put me in a position where I could (or HAD to) quickly learn some very important lessons to live by.

– I lived in Africa for half a year, kind of on my own (you can read about it at www.africathings.wordpress.com–I plan on making some time before too long to finish that series). The biggest lesson I learned there: You can make HUGE things happen if you really want to.

– I arrived back from Africa to my hometown in Florida and promptly moved all the way up to frozen Minnesota, with hardly a penny to my name, and started figuring out life on my own. (A beautiful girl is a strong motivator.)

Both of those were scary things, and both changed my life in big ways. Strangely enough, moving on my own to Minnesota and starting school and getting into business has been way scarier and harder than going off to live in Africa. Especially learning what “grown up” life really entails: Interacting with bosses, writing resumes, learning how to interview, budgeting, building credit, saving money, renting, financial planning, insurance, networking, building relationships, dating, etc…

It’s been a struggle, but I am proud to say I am very happy.

Looking back, a few things stand out as the most important things that growing up and working on life have taught me. They’re definitely lessons you don’t learn in school. I pass them along as encouragement to young people getting started themselves, and encouragement we all need, no matter how seasoned we think we are at life:

 

1. Self-leadership absolutely comes first. You can’t control life, but you can and must control your attitude and behavior.

“The first and the best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

 

2. You can try to blame your life on others, but taking responsibility for all of it gives you the power to change your life.

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” – George O’Neil

 

3. You need help. And having the courage to find people who can help you and then actually ask for and accept their help will change your life in big ways.

“People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you’ve figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness, and confidence.” – Jack Canfield

 

4. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Pick your garden and cultivate it.

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance. The wise grows it under his feet.” – James Oppenheim

 

5. Having a passionate vision and setting serious goals is an incredibly powerful way of life.

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

 

6. Always be a student of life. Learn from books, learn from others, learn by experiencing, and learn by observing.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eight. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford

 

7. Make sure to have a balance in your life of creating, learning, and enjoying.

“Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life; learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” – Robert Fulghum

 

8. You are a whole person. Take care of your body.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

 

9. Loving and being loved is absolutely essential. Caring gives life meaning. And giving is oxygen to your soul.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville

 

10. Happiness and peace come from the inside. Slow down and deeply experience your beautiful world.

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Dalai Lama

 

I hope all this was encouraging for you. :)

PS. #9 needs some repeating. Until you grasp the significance of the people around you, I promise you will not be happy. Your life is insanely meaningful, and every interaction you have with every human being is insanely meaningful. Be incredibly careful, and be incredibly grateful. There is one more related quote that I couldn’t help but stop and meditate on for a while after I read it:

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” – Albert Camus

 

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? Please pass these along and share your own! Let’s all help inspire each other!