Breaking the Cycle: From Ideas to Action

Yesterday I talked about the plethora of options we have in life, and the vast opportunities available for personal gain and fulfillment. But in some sense, it was mostly a theoretical post. Although I gave you my experiences on how I am “breaking the cycle”, there was not much in the way of how others can break the cycle.

Here was a comment from that post:

I think your next post should be “How to break the cycle”. You may have already discussed this in an earlier post with a link to a TED talk, but I think a lot of people end up at a job they hate out of lack of direction or necessity to pay the bills and then wake up one day and they have been there for 5, 10, 20 years and at that point they have invested (or feel that they have invested) too much time to walk away. How do you decide today is the day I am done? Also, how do you harvest your talents for monetary gain? I do not plan to work for my company forever, but I think the scary part can come when you are unable to recognize that you either have talents, or that your talents are valuable to yourself or others. If you do not see value in your own skills or the things you enjoy, then how will you ever market yourself to get a paycheck out of them? Essentially, the scariness factor in leaving your job would directly correlate to your level of self-confidence.

Now, part of the problem is that, like I am talking about, there are countless avenues to follow in life, so there is no one answer on how to break away from the rat race and daily grind. But I think we can all take small steps as part of a bigger goal. While it might work for some people to up and quit their jobs on a whim, most people need some kind of security or back-up plan.

Figuring Out An Alternative

The first problem might be that you don’t know of any way to monetize your passions, or don’t know which passions to try to monetize. This is where you need to do some brainstorming. Write a list of all the businesses you would want to start, if money was not an option. Write a list of all the jobs you would want, if you had the skills and training. Make a list of all your skills, from excel worksheets to gardening, from cleaning toilets to running.

Rate the skills from 1-10 on how much you enjoy doing each one, or rate them in order from most to least enjoyable. Rate the jobs and business lists with 1-10 based on which one you would enjoy the most, and which ones would be the easiest to land. Maybe even group some together if one would be a step to another; example: you want to be a nurse, but you need to go to school first, however you could immediately get a job at a nursing home, which you would find more rewarding than your current job.

You may have a skill you want to focus on, but that itself cannot earn you money. Example: you love to paint or knit, but cannot realistically make a living selling the things you paint or knit. But you could teach others how to paint or knit, or perhaps run one of those bar painting classes. You may never be a pro-tennis player, but could you teach others how to play tennis?

Perhaps you cannot realistically quit your job until you find something to replace it with equal income. You might need to work on something at night or on weekends. The time spent training, studying, building, planning is an investment, and like any investment it can pay off or not. Sometimes it is straightforward like taking night classes to earn a specific degree or certification. Sometimes it is more about building a clientele, or  gaining exposure, or putting together a website.

Plan it out. If you earn the degree, what is the next step to getting the job? If you finish the website, what is the next step to gaining traffic? If you acquire clients, can you fulfill their needs in your free time, and can you sustain them or are they limited time customers? Will your business spread by word of mouth, or do you need another method?

The more planning you do the more confident and comfortable you will be in leaving your job. If you fall short on your planning, it might mean you need to spend more time getting prepared before you can move onto the next step. But usually the planning stages are fun and can invigorate you to make the change quicker. If the planning stages are not exciting, it may be a sign that the end result would not be exciting either.

Planning the Move

I think people in the position of hating their job or being stuck in a rut need to assess what they want and need. If you quit your job, run out of money in two weeks, and start sinking into debt, that is not a long term solution and any momentary happiness will quickly wane.

But if you have a dream already, if you are set in the change you want to make, if you know what you want you just can’t pull the trigger: set a plan in motion to nudge you towards action.

Maybe you know that you need a certain amount of money to live, and a certain amount to start your new venture, whatever that may be. You could save up enough for 4 months before quitting, attempt turning your passion into an income full time for at least 3 months, then reassess to see if you can continue at the same rate, or need to make extra money on the side.

Or you could figure out your actual expenses, strictly budget yourself, and take up a lower paying, but more rewarding job (or at least less time consuming). While doing this job, exploring your interests and honing your skills, you can be planning for your next step. Are you working at the type of store you want to open? Are you gaining skills that will help you start a blog on a certain subject? Are you networking with people in your field to find the next opportunity? Or are you building your future in the newly acquired free time?

Not ready to make the decision on a whim? Set a date in the distance, possibly adding some checkpoints along the way. Set savings goals so that you have more freedom from bills. Keep a jar and put money in it every time you decide not to get a coffee or fast food. Decide at what dollar amount you will leave your current job.

What’s the Worst that could happen?

The not so easy part to answer is if you do not believe in yourself. It is easy for me to say, go out and do it, but I don’t know you. But chances are, if you are not confident, you are underestimating yourself.

Bertrand Russel said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts”. Honestly, it is good to have doubts. It shows you are assessing things properly: weighing the risks and rewards. It is not, however, good to let those doubts rule you. They have their place, but it is a support role, not a central piece.

It may help to write down your doubts, and follow them to their logical conclusion. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen. I decided to start this blog in July. What is the worst that could happen? No one reads it, or people read it and criticize it. The worst outcome is losing time writing (not that bad since it is still good practice), and the $8 per year for the domain name.

But don’t just be negative, write down the best case scenario as well. My blog takes off, millions of people read it, and I become the millionaire voice of a generation. See, things can only get so bad, but the possible benefits are practically limitless. It may be less likely to end that well, but since the possible negative is negligible, there is really no point in not trying.

Obviously some things will have more negatives, and it is up to you to honestly assess what outcome is most likely. But base your assessment on something, not just “everything goes wrong for me”. Worst case scenario for starting a running shoe store for me would be going into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and possible bankruptcy. But is that likely if I do my homework in the first place?

If I look into the area I want to start a store: how much rent will cost, what the population is like, if it is a rich or poor area, will the bank give me a loan, and can I recapture any capital if things go south? You may find the worst case scenario is unlikely to happen. While even if things do not end up ideal, perhaps vendors will take back their product for a refund, or perhaps the type of loan can be restructured.

It is useful to realize the full repercussions of what could happen. But those possible negatives should not paralyze you. The worst case scenario should be incentive to make sure you pick a good area, do your homework, and run a tight ship.

While there are always unforeseen circumstances and hurdles, you are not helpless; your life is not completely out of your control. You can affect what happens to you, your business, your ideas, and your life.

It may all be a dream right now, but just because your grand plan will take 5 or 10 years to come to fruition doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. In fact start now, and in 10 years you will be happy you did. Otherwise you might look back ten years from now and say, wow, I could have earned a degree by now, I could have saved up $100,000 by now, or I could be quitting today to start my own business. But I didn’t start making moves because ten years seemed so far away; almost unattainable.

It is daunting to look ahead with no light at the end of the tunnel. But if not now, then when?

Write a letter to your future self, and seal it with the date you want to read it on. Tell yourself your goals. Capture your enthusiasm and chastise your future self if they lose faith; congratulate your future self if they have made progress. Maybe even respond to the letter, setting more goals, probably shifting the game plan, and seal them up again. This might just be a fun activity for self improvement even if it is not career related or life changing.

Putting My Ideas into Action

Let me end by relating this back to me, because I’m not a success story, I am trying to carve out my niche in this world as well.

I want to publish a book. Well really I want to publish multiple books, and have planned out a whole series that takes place in the same universe. Last January, I had an outline and 0 words. Today I have finished the first draft of 63,000 words that my family and friends are now editing.

Worst case scenario is I wasted a lot of time. But even if this book is not published, I have gained so much writing experience. Now I am ready to start writing another book from the same series, and I get pangs of anxiety since even if I start today, it will be at least March before I am finished. Well if I wait until March I will have nothing and be in the same position as I am now. And if I hadn’t started writing the first one in January, I would still be going back and forth, unsure if I want to possibly waste all that time.

But I pulled the trigger back in January to start, and now have a story, and 63,000 words that I have crafted together to form a novel. I remember when I hit 1,000 words, and 10,000 words, and 30,000 words and thinking about how much further I had to go. It would be easy to have a half finished book on my google drive that every time I go to work on I convince myself not to waste my time, since there is so far to go. But I didn’t do that, and I can now say with certainty that I can write a full length book, thus encouraging me that much more for the next one.

Action begets action. You may not be ready to quit your job, but you can take out a notebook and make the first move.


Don’t Be Scared into the Status Quo: Ordering Off the Menu versus Building Your Own Life

So here’s the conundrum. Life has such vast opportunities, but that means it is impossible to calculate where a choice will lead. It is scary to invite the world in, because inevitably some bad might come in with the good. It can be comfortable to stay were you are at, having reached a benchmark. But there are limitless opportunities and adventures out there! There is not 1 formula for how a life must be lived. With infinite paths, this life can be any combination of experiences, people, adventures, and opportunities you desire. Feel free to mix and match.

The “Sure Thing”

Most of us end up falling back on the sure thing… well as sure as anything can get in this life. We get a job, maybe start a family, save for retirement, and raise some kids. I am not criticizing anyone for doing that if it makes/ made you happy. I think that is an awesome choice for some people, one that can truly be a blessing. But that is one option. To make that choice for yourself is great, but it is natural to try to make your own choice look like the best one, and project outwardly how awesome your circumstances are.

So the problem becomes when enough people collectively adopt the same path, and pressure others to take the same path. Some people do this because they honestly think they took the best possible path and want to help others do the same. Some people are just programmed robots who repeat what they feel they should. Some people are pissed off about their life circumstances and misery loves company.

Don’t let other people talk you out of the typical life if that is what you want, but don’t let anyone trick you into thinking the same thing will make any one of us happy. Everyone is free to make their own choices, but it is hard for some people to resist societal and peer pressure. I am pretty confidant and happy in the abnormal direction I am taking with my life. But even I have to remind myself often that it is okay to not do the same thing “all my friends” are doing, in terms of pursuing careers etcetera.

I am not just saying play video games on the couch your whole life. Actually the opposite. Don’t use “I’m an individual” as an excuse to be lazy and go fewer places, literally of figuratively, than a normal 9-5 would take you. But if you have a plan, and it doesn’t include a cubicle, go for it! I have to constantly remind myself that it is okay that I do not work in a cubicle doing something I hate for five days, just to try to squeeze some enjoyment from the other two, overshadowed by the next 5 days spent doing something I hate.

It makes sense that the “sure thing” is what the majority of people go for. They order off the menu. If you honestly don’t know what you want, you might as well provide yourself with the means to buy necessities, and some spending money to pursue fun and adventure on the side. Even if you do know what you want, the “sure thing”might be the best path to get there. Why try to build my own sandwich when I already see a delicious one available? But some people choose the “sure thing” out of fear, and end up surviving when they should be living.

Build Your Own Happiness

So if that typical work life isn’t for you, try something else. Even just talking about jobs (because I understand we all have needs) there are countless, although most likely lower paying, alternatives to doing something you hate. It may be cliche, but they say do what you love and the money will come. So maybe you like hiking… and just walking around the woods might never earn you much money. But have you looked into becoming a park ranger, a canoe/ kayak guide, or even part of a grounds crew for a park? It might not be glamorous, but for some people the quality of life might be better earning less but working outside.

There are so many ingredients in life, why not try your hand at combining just the right ones for you?

Running is one of my hobbies, so on the side I work for a running shoe store. Is working at a running shoe store the same thing as running? No, but it is closer than working on a computer. I get to interact with runners, trade training tips and knowledge, offer advice, learn from anecdotes, address injuries, and use the stick and the foam roller while getting paid to be there. I work with awesome people, the customers are almost always happy and excited, and I’ve gained enough knowledge and expertise that this job could be a stepping stone. I could use it as a jumping off point to become a coach, a nutritionist, a trainer, or maybe even someday open my own running store.

I am that guy that likes hiking, and no I haven’t earned any money from walking around the woods. But I did pick up foraging, and reading into natural medicines. This is a skill that I practice while hiking; it adds to the fun of being in the woods to identify useful plants. I could see becoming an herbal healer some day, perhaps combining my interests in physical activity with diet, and throw in some experience working for a small business. I’ve got the background to start a natural medicine clinic. And the perfect base for customers would be injury prone runners, who may not know that some ginger and pineapple after a run will help reduce inflammation in the joints, and eating a beet regiment can help open up the blood vessels, increasing oxygen flow.

I don’t know if I am going to go into the running or natural medicine business—right now I am trying my hand in the writing industry. But I do know not to get too caught up in padding my bank account, instead focusing on the endless opportunities that life has in store.

I want to move south, at least for a while. I feel the need to change my surroundings after 25 years, live somewhere new, and experience a different atmosphere. That is scary though, and it is sad just thinking about not seeing certain friends and family for prolonged periods of time. But it is something that will keep me from stagnating, move me forward, and afford me with new opportunities and skills. I haven’t had much opportunity to try my hand at mini-farming, which also fits into my interests and possibilities for future income generation.

And I want to see the world. Again, it might be tough to ever make money on some of these things. But seeing the world gives you perspective, the kind that might impress someone in conversation, the type of someone who happens to be able to get you a job as a tour guide at a museum of fine art. I don’t know! That’s the point, there are a thousand opportunities around every corner, and doing what you love can’t hurt. The more you break outside of the status quo, the more likely things will be new, exciting, and rewarding!

Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you love. It may be safer and easier to stay at a job you hate, pay the bills, and try to squeeze some enjoyment out of life. But if that doesn’t make you happy, it might be time to take a chance, and see where it leads you. Seriously why is 95% of the population trapped in the same “this is how it has to be” mentality, when there are countless, endless opportunities for gains, adventure, fun, knowledge, skills, and anything else you might crave, desire, or need for fulfillment.

Don’t let the fear control you. Don’t be so scared to grab at an opportunity, or create your own opportunity, that you let the sand slip between your fingers. What’s that old cliche: on their death bed, most people don’t regret the things they did, they regret the things they didn’t do.

Marriage: A Mile Marker

Today I’ll be heading up to New Hampshire for a wedding. Really, these are the first of my friends from high school to get married. Sure, I went to my cousin’s wedding this past summer, but even though we are the same age, there’s a different aspect to being at a wedding as one of the friends, versus one of the relatives. This will be my first friend wedding, versus family wedding.

It makes me feel old. I still react with shock every time I hear someone my age is getting married or having a baby. It takes me a couple minutes to realize that these are not teenage pregnancies and shotgun weddings. It is actually quite normal to be starting a family at 24 or 25 years old. My sister had two kids at my age, and was celebrating her third wedding anniversary.

It has got to be very exciting to start a new chapter of one’s life, being married. It is a definitive time when one stage ends and another begins; you can’t mistake yourself for a child anymore. Me on the other hand, I still feel like a kid. There’s no threshold I’ve passed that has said, “alright, now life’s different”, so things just seem jumbled into one stage of life. You could say two stages, but the second stage has such a fluid starting point.

Did adulthood start at 16 when I could drive, or 18 when I was “legally” an adult who couldn’t legally drink. At 18 in America, you got another 3 years of being treated like a child. So does adulthood start at 21, at which point everyone wonders why these young adults are still acting like children (because they’ve been treated like children for 21 years, well into historically recognized adulthood).

Some expect artificial milestones to change people, but really, changed people reach organic milestones.

Marriage makes the shift quite obvious. Stage 2: creating your own family. You decide when to get married, it isn’t a predestined time and place for everyone around you to then say, “alright, you’re an adult now!”. The choice is yours, and it is something to embark on when you feel like an adult. There’s an order of operations here. Getting married in order to feel like an adult will probably end poorly; getting married because you feel like an adult makes sense.

It is scary to outsiders like me who see themselves in such a different stage. It is natural to compare yourself with your peers, and wonder if you are doing something wrong. When people start getting married around me, it makes me wonder if there is something I am missing. A flurry of emotions is awakened in the unmarried wedding goer. It makes you think. Do they really have their shit together that much more than me?

I wonder if it feels like wiping the slate clean. Is marriage the time when you can finally get past all the little things that bothered you about adolescence, and all the petty quirks from high school and college? It seems like a perfect time to fully harden the “I don’t care” attitude. The good kind of “I don’t care”, not the Lindsay Lohan kind. The type of “I don’t care” because you got someone that will always have your back. You are no longer alone in the world, to fight your own battles. There is always backup on the way, always an ear ready to listen, and always someone else to share the struggles and the best of times with.

Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Wedding Registry

Interestingly, Nick and Amanda have been together for a decade at the age of 24. This isn’t one of those “is it gonna last” marriages: they have already passed the seven year itch. Marriage just makes it official, confirms what we have all known for a long time: that this pair makes sense together. They add something to the other, they work well together. They have already been moving through life together for a long time, but tomorrow, there will be no mistaking it. It is Team Amanda and Nick, entering adulthood together.

Congratulations, Amanda and Nick! You are marking the first official time when we can sit back and reminisce, sure that certain things are exclusively in the past. We may never again frolic on the golf course late at night, setting off firecrackers and running from no one. We might be done packing 5 people into a canoe, sunken so far into the water one false move will sink it; lighting fires and sending soda cans rocketing off the coals.

These events can clearly be designated to the Stage 1 of life,  and viewed through a new lens. From here the conversations will begin to shift; instead of talking about how cool we are for drinking, and causing trouble, we will probably be discussing how to keep our future children from drinking and causing trouble. How the hell did we make it out of there unscathed? That has already happened with my sister and some of her friends. I consider my experienced advice invaluable to them.

It is funny how it can seem like a blink of an eye from being a kid, to being an adult. Marriage, like most ceremonies, has as much meaning as you want to give it. Some people think there is something magical about ceremonies; that due to marriage an outside force will make you a different person. That’s not true though. Marriage is something to undertake when you are ready to make yourself a different person. Otherwise it would be putting the cart before the horse, and I see that too often. People think that getting married will make their boyfriend become more mature, or their girlfriend act more like a stereotype.

But I know it is not like that for Nick and Amanda. I think you guys have got it all figured out. You’re not doing it for other people, and you are not doing it as a way to convince yourselves of anything. Marriage won’t change anything by itself; you have already gotten to that point, made the positive change. Marriage is just the celebration, the recognition of what you have, and will have for the rest of your lives!

Why Do We Want What We Don’t Have?

Understanding Our Desires

I think a lot about human evolution, and natural selection. I like to consider what aspects of our feelings and actions are based on what made our ancestors survive. Along that thought process, a line in a country song by Jake Owen called “What We Ain’t Got” sparked my thinking: “We ain’t happy where we are, there’s greener grass in the neighbor’s yard, a bigger house and a faster car, we ain’t happy where we are”.

It is easy to be cliche and say things like, “just appreciate what you have”, or “count your blessings”. While these would be great things to do, I find that deeper understandings of our own feelings help us to cope with them, and change them if necessary. If “we all want what we ain’t got” and recognize that, how do we take the next step to being content with what we have or can achieve?

Well in my humble opinion, I think if we can pinpoint the biological or chemical reasons why we feel that way, we can logically overcome those negative feelings. What is it that makes us always want more, and always want what our neighbors got?

Probably survival. For most of human history, it was hard to survive to reproductive age. This is natural selection, and the ones who did survive to reproduce passed on their genes, and taught their children how to survive. In this sense, having certain traits was beneficial to survival. The desire to always have more must certainly have led to better chances for an individual’s survival.

Now in the days of cave men, this probably meant eating more. The more you eat, the more likely you are to survive the winter, or a prolonged period without proper sustenance. The same applied to hoarding food and supplies. I may have enough food for a week, but wanting enough food for a month meant a better chance of surviving. I may have a nice sharpened stick, but my tribesman over there has a thicker stick with a sharpened rock at the front. I want that. It will help me survive.

In modern times, what is it that we need? Our genes might be telling us we need a better car, more technology, and a bigger house. But are we still stuck in caveman times when the desire to always get more helped us survive? It could be that in this modern world, in order to advance, a different set of wants and needs should be adopted.

This change however is not likely to happen quickly, since the two traits may lead to an equal chance of survival. Growing to reproductive age where you can pass on your traits may be just as attainable for the millionaire with a mansion and a ferrari as it is for the outdoorsman who likes to hike and hunt.

But this also led me to thinking about being happy. If it is ingrained in us that we always need to be advancing in one way or another in order to be happy, then we will never get to that place we dream of. Sometimes I feel like I am waiting to start my life until I reach some point, some amount of money, some type of job, some relationship status. But once I get to that point, would I really just be like, “ok I’m done, I’ve accomplished everything I wanted”? I don’t think so. I think the next step would be to accomplish something else. Set your sights on something greater.

But let me contrast the two types of wanting what we ain’t got. Don’t convince yourself that you will be happy once you get the new iphone, or once you have equal clothes to your friends, or once you buy that nicer house. Working towards and earning these things could very well make you happy, but I doubt that having these things will increase your happiness, unless they are a means rather than an end. If you want a smartphone because you love staying in touch with friends all the time, the smartphone is the means, not the end.

On the other hand, being all you can be will almost certainly make you enjoy life more. Understand why you want what you want, and decide if that is something that will put you in a better spot. Is your desire for more, more, more the result of thousands-years-dead ancestors making sure they survive the winter? Or is that born out of the desire to not remain stagnant?

We all have relatively similar chances of surviving “to pass on our genes”. That is why I don’t think material things make people happy; it is a stale process that gets us no closer to survival, and no further from death. If you want to accumulate things, accumulate accomplishments. This could include a big house, or a new car if you landed your dream job, or started a successful company, but those are not the necessary parts.

The important aspect of growing oneself is gaining skills, gaining knowledge, having goals, having direction. Mindlessly accumulating material items may even be a symptom of unhappiness, of not knowing what you want to accomplish, and having no set goals for yourself or your life.

How I Interpret My Goals

Don’t get me wrong, I want material things as well. But when I assess if I would feel happy when achieving these, I realize there is a sad abyss at the “end” of any journey. If you have ever seen Citizen Kane just think of his huge shadowy mansion, with statues, fountains, and things everywhere. But he dies alone and miserable. Or think about the Shel Silverstein book, The Missing Piece. When he finds his piece, he realizes it was the journey to find the piece that made him happy. The solution is to have no set ending for your journey through life. If your desire is power or money alone, this can get dicey. But if your desire is happiness, and money is a means to that end, rather than the end itself, that is not necessarily unhealthy if you are being honest with yourself.

Why do I want a giant house with lots of bedrooms, walking trails, gardens, and a pool? Because I am happiest when I am with other people, my friends, and my family. Because I enjoy outdoors activities, swimming, and growing vegetables. If I get to the point where I can easily invite friends and relatives from all corners of the country to stay with me, that would contribute to my happiness. If I get to the point where right outside my door is a variety of my favorite things, I will be in general more happy.

Is that the end goal? No, there would need to be more accomplishments, and more to attain after that. I would inevitably get bored, or stuck in a rut, so I would need to find a new productive hobby, start a worthwhile business, travel to remote destinations, and help others attain a better position in their own lives. But currently, it makes sense for me to strive for my vision of my dream home and property.

Can I still be happy if I don’t achieve that? Sure! That can always be in my head as something I want to attain, but I don’t necessarily have to get there to be routinely happy. I can start a garden before I am a millionaire. I can use trails that I don’t own. I can save up for vacations with friends and family, where we will all be together for extended periods of time. I can be happy while on the path to those achievements, because I am making progress, and achieving goals.

After camping with my family, it was disappointing to have to go back to the real world. In fact I started this blog coming off of a vacation mentality that I wanted to keep forever. My goal is to always feel as good as I feel while on vacation. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy until I get there, if I get there.

As with so much else in life, there is a balance. Be happy with where you are, but not to the point that you stagnate and lose that appreciation for your accomplishments. Strive for achievement and gain, but don’t let the goal blind you from the enjoyment of the journey.





Don’t Fear the Light: Openness vs. Blind Faith

I believe it was Carlsbad Caverns that my family toured when I was going into fourth grade. We were taken deep beneath the earth’s surface, and guided into a large domed cave within the natural underground tunnels. The tour guide told us to put our hand 12 inches in front of our face, and he turned off the flashlight. “Can you see the outline of your hand?” he asked. We all could–or so we thought. There was no light at this depth in these caves detectable by the human eye, and the outline we thought we saw was simply a construction of our brain. A single match was then lit, flooding the ballroom sized cavern with enough light to see every stalactite and stalagmite in wonderful detail.

It seems likely that a humans’ aversion to new ideas is rooted in evolution. If what you have been doing has always worked for survival, changing it could be quite dangerous. Why let someone convince you to go out on a limb that could snap, instead of continuing practices that have always kept you alive? It is understandable that our survival instincts tell us to fear change, and support the status quo. If there were berries and game here last year, there will probably be next year as well.

But in evolution danger lies in too homogeneous a species. There is still much mystery surrounding why, but about 70,000 years ago the human population of earth “bottlenecked” and was reduced to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. Humans were extremely endangered and essentially almost went extinct. For the people living before the event or series of events or long-term change, there was not much reason to change what had worked for survival. But for some reason, a bunch of humans died off, and only a small group survived.

I don’t know why that group survived. It could have been a genetic variation, or special skills one group possessed, or perhaps, the ability to adapt. While many other humans could not break with tradition in terms of “what has always worked”, maybe a small group was able to reassess their method of survival, and change it in order to survive in the new environment. Whether the new environment was caused by climate, predators, wars, disease, famine, or aliens hardly matters. What matters is the ability to predict upheaval, and properly prepare for that change.

70,000 years ago there were probably a lot of people that knew something was happening, but did not know what to do about it. They probably continued living the only life they knew, and died because of it. There were probably also people who did not see any change coming, and failed to prepare out of ignorance. Others might have continued hunting the hypothetically disappearing game until the very last one was eaten, and then starved, refusing to believe that their way of life could possibly change.

Some humans might have seen a change coming, but prepared for the wrong change, or predicted an event that never came to fruition. But what we know is that there were a select few who were either lucky, or smart. I like to think that the survivors were the ones who were not afraid of the light. It seems that people who were the most open to learning, who could consider new ideas, and adapt to their environment would be most suited to survive, and I don’t think that has changed.

This does not mean any new idea should be seized upon and believed wholeheartedly without proper scrutiny; some of those early humans died because they saw the wrong change coming. But equally detrimental was refusing to see the light, and therefore not adjusting reactions to escalating dangers. The ultimate survival skills lie in those who can objectively and rationally consider risks and rewards. Shutting out a new idea is just as likely to end negatively as blind faith in a new idea, or being convinced that the oldest idea is novel.

Moving into the twentieth century, what humans must do to survive is be vigilant and logical. There are those who stand on their front porch and watch as a tsunami rolls in, and there are those who run to the top of mountains to be rescued by aliens who never show. We want to avoid each category. We should learn about the tsunami and assess the weather report: the risk to an area, the scope and magnitude, and the timing. But there’s no harm in hearing out the would be extraterrestrial pilgrims either; just beware of seeing something where there is nothing. Often your instincts will be correct, and there will be no facts behind the theory. However it does not hurt to listen and objectively consider data, you may be surprised by the result and learn things that seem so obvious in hindsight.

Sometimes we are more comfortable in the dark, imagining our hand is visible, than seeing our real environment illuminated. In a place so dark, it does not take much light to see your true surroundings. Don’t continue to imagine that you see your hand in the dark. Be brave, and light the match; it will illuminate things you never knew were there.

Four Personalities: I am Sanguine. What are You?

Every since my sister introduced me to the four personalities or temperaments the other day, I have been obsessed and got a lot of my friends to take the test as well. This is by no means a definitive test, and the more times you take it the more accurate it will be. It will represent you to varying degrees, and practically no one fits 100% into one category or another. It is just a means for understanding yourself, and helping you interact with others. But as someone interested in sociology, this struck a nerve with me and I just absolutely wanted to know everything about these personalities, how they interact, and where each of my friends and family fall. For more legit and detailed descriptions, and to take the test just follow this link.

Me: Sanguine: This is the fun loving social butterfly, possible party animal who expresses their emotions. A sanguine enjoys being the center of attention (go figure, I started a blog called Joe Jarvis Explains It All), but will do things for his own amusement as much as for others’. “They enjoy social situations, and believe that everyone else would too”. This quote was funny to me, because I do sort of have a habit of assuming everyone wants to get in on a nice rowdy night of camaraderie and shenanigans. I have been quite befuddled by the person who stays home rather than joining the party! That’s part of why I like this personality test, it reminds me that I need to realize everyone doesn’t think like me… in fact I am the minority in many ways. But that is fine with me, I want to be the minority, if you stick out like a sore thumb you get that much more attention. Yes, I like attention and I can embrace that. The downside to being sanguine is the possibility for shallowness and vanity.


Choleric: This was my sub personality, the second strongest (though I can see elements of all the 4 personalities in myself). A choleric is the born leader, they have a plan, and know how to execute that plan. They can be a little over the top dominant sometimes; think captain of the football team or the my-way corporate boss. Though driven, their downfall can be their desire to be right all the time or “win” an argument, even if they have to resort to lies or yelling. They speak their minds, which again, can be good or bad; there is a fine line between tough love and being rude. The alpha dog.

Phlegmatic: There was a certain desire while taking the test for it to turn out Phlegmatic (like Harry Potter begging to be put into Gryffindor by the sorting hat). But its okay, although I often find it fun to go with the flow, it feels unnatural to be a follower. A phlegmatic is definitely the chillest of the personality types, who really just want to see peace and harmony among the group. Like a sanguine they promote team cohesion, but it is through love, understanding, and conflict resolution, rather than the entertainment and encouragement of a sanguine. They aviod controversy, and will stay silent rather than saying the wrong thing. “Can’t we all just get along?” Though there is something to be said against being too easily influenced by others.

Melancholic: I can’t resist the desire to tease my sister, knowing she will read this, who said something along the lines of, “Of course I have the worst one”, thus confirming she is a melancholic. (Then again maybe I am being too sanguine in assuming she will take my jest lightly). But really the melancholic has a lot of great traits, that might be somewhat overshadowed by their general pessimism and somewhat withdrawn nature. But the reason for this is basically that they are perfectionists, and therefore almost necessarily fall below their own standards set for themselves. In reality they are probably the smartest people in society (think scientists and programmers), because they are analytic, and desire truth, not just to “be right” like the choleric. In fact melancholics might argue, but for a completely different reason than the choleric; they cannot stand the fact that a lie is being promoted, or an untruth taken as gospel. Their desire to set the universe right is what will constantly dog them, because it is a righteous goal impossible to achieve. A melancholic is emotional, but in a different way than the sanguine; the melancholic is more sensitive and may dwell on an injustice, while the sanguine’s emotions are fleeting. “People of the melancholic temperament might perceive a room of twenty strangers as frightening or uncomfortable, while a sanguine might see them as opportunities to meet new friends.”

[Off topic but, oh man I totally just realized that J.K. Rowling almost certainly made each house in Hogwarts into a personality, right? Hufflepuff is definitely phlegmatic, and Slytherin almost certainly choleric, which would make sense that Gryffindor is sanguine, and Ravenclaw melancholic. Any Harry Potter fans want to give me their thoughts on this? Alternatively I could see Gryffindor as choleric, Slytherin melancholic, Ravenclaw sanguine, and Hufflepuff still phlegmatic.]

Seriously, if there is one post I want a giant discussion on, it is this one. Come on, it will be fun, says the sanguine. All you cholerics go ahead and make your case for why you’re not an asshole. Don’t be afraid to join in, melancholics, I know you are reading and rereading your comment before posting it to make sure your grammar is correct, and your argument logically laid out; its great, seriously. And really, phlegmatics, I know you just want to read everyone else’s comments, but the discussion will be lacking without you! Maybe you can find an argument, and tell us why both sides have a valid point, and should come together.

Also, as I said, these are new terms to me, so if I messed up the descriptions of any of them, or misrepresented them, please correct me in the comments below! Tell me which personality type YOU are and how this has worked for you; your experiences negative or positive in coping! 🙂

The Legend of (Your Name Here)

This is a Ted talk called “How to Find and Do the Work You Love” by a guy Scott Dinsmore who started something called live your legend. Essentially he says that 80% of people are not happy with their jobs, and as Warren Buffett put it, working jobs as a resume builder is like saving up sex for old age. You’ve got to do what you love now.

I was excited watching the video because I felt like I was already following his advice before I even saw the video. As he suggests, I surround myself with encouraging people who care about my happiness, and success in my own terms. But that doesn’t mean they can’t offer constructive criticism. If I was trying to make it as a pro-football player, my family and friends would hopefully talk some sense into me. But I’m not, I’m trying to make it as a writer, and I am so grateful for the amount and type of support I get. And by the way, I am out on a limb as much as the next guy who would go this route—I haven’t made a dime writing… yet.

Not only on my day to day life though, but at the event that sparked this blog I was surrounded by people who were doing what I want to do. Not precisely, you’ve always got to have your own angle, but they were excellent models for how to throw off the jealous and vindictive weights which society places on you, in an attempt by the cynics to make themselves feel better by keeping you at the bottom with the masses. Politics was (and in many ways still is) my passion, but what I learned from the people I surrounded myself with is that it is not political theory or facts that is lacking, it is the philosophical basis on which people live their lives. Scott asks, what if instead of 80% of people hating their jobs, all 80% of those people did exactly what they wanted to do, and loved it? Can you imagine the type of world we could create? And that transcends politics.

I like the quote he uses from Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win”. And it is so true! As much as we need to surround ourselves with the right people for our success, other depressed robots seek to make sure those around them remain depressed robots. Misery loves company, and they will work to keep you miserable. So find what you love, and do that. If it has to start as a hobby, so be it, but don’t let it fade away, don’t be too tired to make a run for the money, and don’t wait until you’re dead to go for the gold.

He closes by asking the audience, “What is the work you can’t, not do?”

Whatever Floats Your Boat

floats boat

Right?! Live and let live. The only limit on someone’s freedom should be when their actions start limiting others’ freedom.

I like to picture myself as a wild stallion who cannot be tamed! Now keep in mind, wild stallions don’t get paid much… but its worth it sometimes, and I can always just forage for food if things get rough. Over the years I’ve been gearing more towards experiences to make me happy than material things—though I won’t pretend I’m void of earthly possessions, I still want to be a millionaire. But I really think my desire for money is coupled with my desire for freedom. I just want to do me, and not bow to the pressures of society. Some of that you can do without money, but I also want to see the world, and eat stuff I didn’t forage! Ah, I suppose we are all in a similar conundrum. Unless you keep reading my blog(s), then maybe I’ll be freed!

I think there’s a point somewhere in all that rambling.

What if Life is Just our Souls Playing a Video Game?

boatHuman beings lack perspective, literally, as in, we only view the world from our eyes. I’m not trying to be all high and mighty; we can look at pictures and videos from other perspectives, but we are still doing that with just our eyes and other senses, mostly based out of our heads. Then we process that with our brains which are pretty much basing the new material off of old stuff we processed and inventoried before. It works for us on earth, but it does make me wonder why there is such a willingness to say we know what happens after earth. There is only so much information we have to go off of, so to say there is nothing, or to say there is something quite specific confuses me… I’ve always been a skeptic, which I think is a healthy way to not be hoodwinked.

So the idea I’m about to present also lacks perspective I realize, but it takes that lack of perspective into account. Have you ever played video games for a long time, and then perhaps you got busted in Grand Theft Auto so you snap out of it, look around and are like, “Woah I’ve been playing video games for like 5 hours”? What if earth is just our souls playing a video game?

Maybe its a coming of age type thing for our souls to spend a lifetime on earth, and see what we can get out of it. Or maybe there is no limit to how many earth lives you can live, and you got to keep going around until you finally get it right. The other souls will laugh, “Ha, it took you 230 lifetimes to move beyond earth! I did it in 46”.

And as soon as we die we look around and are like, “Damn, how did I forget I was playing a video game that whole time?” And then all the souls sit around and have a beer (or whatever body-less souls drink for a good time, because I don’t want to imagine an eternity without a good beverage) and talk about what they learned on earth.

“Can you believe I beat that old lady and stole her wallet, just to buy some vodka?” What a silly thing for a soul to do, but the person was coming from a very particular perspective of being a poor drunk who’s past stimuli didn’t teach him that he shouldn’t beat old ladies and take their money. (For the record I am anti-old-lady-beating, don’t use your infinite soul as an excuse!)

Could that be it? That we are put into a simulator and forget about what happened before life, and have no idea what will happen after? Coming into this world was pretty dream like: you just wake up all of the sudden—can’t even really pinpoint when and where—and you’re here, without any perspective on where you came from, and just have to be like, “Okay, lets see what happens”. But in a dream you completely forget that you were ever awake. It feels so different, dreams and reality, yet from the perspective of a dream, it seems like that is all there is. It’s a dream within a dream! Maybe Inception was onto something.

The perspective is much more omniscient from the soul. Imagine entire ideas and feelings transferred in a fraction of a second, with no room for confusion. And I feel quite limited, like I can see so little from inside my skull, and have to express all my brain-stuffs in words—which is so primitive. I have to look in one direction, and can only look at one place at each time. How limited 5 senses are! There should be infinite stimuli that we process in a vacuum (think of all the wavelengths we just recently, or have yet to discover), not just a few, that get mixed up with so much emotion in there! But we are after all still humans, and have got to learn these things.

What if I totally just cut down the amount of human lives you have to live before you move on, awaken from this coming of age test, and join the universe as one once more? Now you don’t have to die on the battlefield of WWIII in your next life, because you can use this life to finish up your earthly, coming of soul age lessons! Okay, now I’m getting cocky… I don’t want to set myself back ten lifetimes.

The Shortest Friendship of My Life

Do what makes you happy today (assuming you’re not a serial killer or something) because you never know if you will be here tomorrow. Yes, I am trying to be all bright and happy, but everyone gets a reminder of their mortality from time to time. My most recent reminder happens to be linked to the very event that sparked this blog, and this attempt to enjoy every second of life. It makes it all the more important to love life, enjoy yourself, and cherish the time you have with friends and loved ones.

I went to something called the Porcupine Freedom Festival the last week in June. It is about politics to some degree, but the community at this week long event is really where the fun comes in. I left having made new friends, spent one of the best weeks of my life with them, and adopted this positive attitude to bring back to my everyday life, in order to have fun with the otherwise mundane.

Unfortunately upon returning home, last Monday I found out that a new friend of mine who had attended the event for 3 days and sang for a half hour slot on that Wednesday, had died in a car accident on that Friday, once back home in Wisconsin. His name was Drew, and he was 20 years old, and truly one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. He was into music, had a great indie style, made some of his own songs, and covered others—I liked a cover he did of Lady Gaga. We hung out by the campfire for two nights with a few other new friends, and caught up after his set on Wednesday before he headed back home with his dad.

It was the shortest friendship I’ve ever had in my life, and I fully expected to see him again. He was talking about coming back to the coast within a few months and attending PorcFest again in 2015. I intended to keep up with his music; already I was encouraging him to do some open mic nights in Milwaukee, maybe throw another Lady Gaga cover in there, and keep practicing his unique style. It was such a shock, and a very strange feeling to hear that he died just two days after I had last saw, just 5 days after first meeting him. I didn’t know him extremely well or very long—there was simply not enough time, but there was something very pointed about the situation.

I don’t want to make someone’s death all about me, but I want to explain the impact Drew had on me in the short time I knew him. Here was an event we attended, that had such a positive impact on me, influenced me to create a new blog, and take home a whole new enthusiastic attitude on life, partly because of Drew and people like him who I had become friends with at the festival. And then, one of those very people I became close with, part of what made the festival so great, who was inextricably linked to that week, and the impact it had on me, died immediately following the event. There was a piece of that week that I was not going to be reacquainted with, a piece that I couldn’t experience again, that I would never have back, no matter what situation I found myself in.

It was as devastating as it was symbolic. It serves as a reminder, and an influence as I start on this new journey (with this blog as my breadcrumbs) to have a positive attitude, and enjoy every moment in life. I’m so glad I spent those hours with Drew, and was able to have him in my life for what little time was possible. You never know when you, or someone you love, will leave this world; don’t spend the time you have second guessing yourself, or sulking. Drew didn’t: he drove from Milwaukee to play his homemade music in front of strangers, some of whom, like myself, were lucky enough to become his friends. He took a chance, he did what he loved, he put himself out there, he emanated radiant vibes, and he had fun doing it.

I am so grateful I got to meet Drew before he died, and spend some of his last days on earth with him. He may be gone as a person, but the influence he had on me in the very short time I knew him will not fade, and will live on as a piece of me. The positive, funny, warm hearted person that I knew him as would be proud at the opportunity to help others realize their potential, step out of their comfort zones, and live their lives chalk full of energy and passion. Be like Drew, and do this life for you, enjoying every second of it; you may never know how far the ripples you create in this world will spread. Drew jumped into the pool of life doing a cannonball.