All posts by Joseph Downing

The Lost Art of Being a Gentleman

I recently attended a funeral where other than myself, the only men wearing suits were the decedent’s grieving sons. Every other man in attendance was wearing what they would wear to spend the day on the golf course or to go to Walmart. I thought: what gives? What has happened where we don’t need to put on a suit and tie to pay respect to someone at his funeral? The “casualization” of our culture strikes me as lazy, and by embracing it men deny themselves the opportunity to present themselves as gentlemen from time to time.

It’s not about money. You don’t have to buy an Armani suit. My grandfather was a coalminer and butcher all his life, but he always went to church in a suit and tie. Any man can find a respectable suit from Goodwill. It’s not about your net worth; it’s abut your self-worth. Putting on a suit for wedding, funeral or other formal event shows that you respect the occasion and respect yourself. Come on guys. Step up. And clean your nails and polish your shoes while you are at it.

And when you get there, open and hold the door for the ladies. Stand up when someone enters the room. Offer a firm handshake. Don’t ask a woman if she is pregnant. When walking with a woman, remember to be on the side closest to the street so if someone get’s splashed by a car it’s you, not her. Don’t make snide or disrespectful comments about other people’s bodies. Give up your seat on the bus. Cut your elderly neighbor’s grass. Don’t tell people you’re going to the bathroom, just say, “excuse me” when you get up. Let the lady order first. Pick up the tab.

It’s fun to pull out your inner James Bond every once in a while. You can go back to dressing like the Big Lebowski when you get back home.

Anxiety. The Most Useless of Emotions

If you are depressed you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ~ Lao Tzu

My friend, Hal, is a very successful businessman who started a new company a few years ago importing Designer European light fixtures. The company has done well, on the edge of success, but always just shy of obtaining the funding really needed to take off. They struggle to maintain the capital needed to produce the products necessary to meet customer demand. They struggle to meet the Company’s day-to-day needs. If only they could get past that hurdle . . . the level of success would be unlimited. And then, they found an investor. If, and when, the deal goes through, they would go from a small start up with 10 employees to a company worth . . . $140 million. Overnight.

Amazing, right? Except that was three years ago. The deal is still in the works, but legal technicalities, market concerns, this problem, that problem have caused delay after delay after delay. Maybe the deal will be completed tomorrow, or maybe it will never happen and the business will fail. Feast or famine on the turn of a dime, and he just has to wait. And hope. And wait. That would fill me with constant, debilitating anxiety.

But not Hal. I asked him why. “What purpose would it serve? It doesn’t get me any closer to getting the deal done. It would just make me crazy. Anxiety is a useless and dangerous emotion.”

He’s right. Seth Godin defines anxiety as “ experiencing failure in advance.” He goes on to say, “If you’re busy enacting a future that hasn’t happened yet, and amplifying the worst possible outcomes, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to ship that work.” And Thomas Moore writes, “Anxiety is nothing but fear inspired by an imagined future collapse.  It is the failure of trust.” Spot on, both of them.

If you’re like me, you know avoiding the anxiety mindset is difficult. If I’m running five minutes late to a meeting, I get anxious. And I have no rational reason why. What’s going to happen if I’m five minutes late? Most likely nothing. So why assume something bad will happen? I have no idea.

Wikipedia defines anxiety as “a feeling of fear, uneasiness, and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.”

People facing anxiety tend to withdraw from situations that have provoked anxiety in the past. And that is a dangerous pattern. It causes us to avoid risks or to try new things. That sense of “failing in advance” keeps us from stretching, growing and reaching our full potential.

So what do we do about this?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the following management strategies go a long way:

Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.

Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.

Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.

Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.

Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.

Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.

Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.

Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.

Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?

Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.

Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.

Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.

Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.

 And remember, failing itself can be a “success” if you learn from your mistakes. And whatever the outcome, the end world’s not going to end. As they say, this too shall pass. Anxiety is not your friend. Let it crawl back into the hole from which it came.

 

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

 

On this Mother’s Day, a Reminder to Embrace Your Parents with All the Love You Have.

In a recent study, it was determined that most of us have expended 93% of the time we will spend with our parents by the age of eighteen (link below). Until eighteen, we typically live with our parents and see them every day. After eighteen, we typically move out, go to college or get a job, maybe even move out of state. At this point we only see them sporadically, sometimes only a few times a year. For the rest of our lives, only 7% of our time interacting with our parents will occur.

That’s not much. And that’s why it’s so important we value this time and make the most of it. And that seven percent? That’s assuming they live to age 90. And that’s a pretty big assumption.

Knowing this, it makes it easier not get annoyed by their quirks and behaviors that, as their children, sometimes drive us crazy.  It makes it easier to let go of the petty grievances and baggage we carry from our youth. Embrace them and tell them you love them. Your opportunities to do this are fewer than you think. Believe me, I know.

In 2004, at the age of 58, my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Despite having chemotherapy and even having her stomach removed (yes, you can live without a stomach—the intestine adapts) the cancer had spread throughout her body. In January of 2005, I took her and my father to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She had previously never been out of the country. Wheelchair bound, she reveled in bouncing along the bumpy, cobblestone streets, taking in the bright colors of the painted buildings, fabrics and glassware. She loved bartering with the merchants and ordering exotic and beautiful food she knew she would not be able to eat. Sitting on the beach, she watched the ocean for hours.

On the day before we left I pushed her wheelchair out to the sand and we sat and watched the sun set over the ocean. We were quiet for a long stretch of time before she spoke.

“It’s so great to be here, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “I love Mexico.”

“Yes, but I mean it’s so great to be here.”

And then I knew what she meant. It was great to be here, alive, now, in the present moment. And I could feel the bittersweet realization she had come to, and I witnessed the sense of peace, not regret, that it gave her.

We returned home and a month later she died. Despite the horrible physical suffering she endured (and cancer is god-awful—no one should experience what my mother experienced), that sense of peace and presence never left her. When she passed away, she was ready.

When I get wrapped up with my to-do list and am biting my lip and talking to myself anxiously over this or that, in my best moments I catch myself and go back to the beach, sitting on the sand next to my mother, and remind myself how great it is to be Here. I slow down, I pay attention, and I look at things as if seeing them for the first time. I try to look at things as if seeing them for the last time. I remind myself to be bewildered and experience rapture, one moment at a time. My problems shrink to their proper, insignificant size, and I am again at peace.  This, the last gift I ever received from my mother, is a precious one I will never forget.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I miss you everyday.

Link to the study:

http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

 

 

 

Travelogue: A Tribute to the Mexican People and the Bonds that Connect Us All.

 

Several years ago my friend, Arturo, invited me to return with him to his hometown of Santa Ana, a small village in Mexico, for its annual festival celebrating the Saint from which the town is named. Arturo began working in this village when he was nine years old, carrying forty-pound bags of sand for a construction company. When he was fourteen, he immigrated to the United States, where he worked twelve hours a day six days a week as a dishwasher in a relative’s restaurant. By his late twenties, he opened his own restaurant. And now, almost twenty years later, he owns four restaurants and employs over fifty people. He is, as they say, a self-made man.

His village was quaint, beautiful, and certainly off the tourist track. The only American I saw was the one in the mirror. But they knew how to throw one hell of a festival. Lasting a week, there was a parade every day, a carnival that stretched through the town, and twelve to twenty member mariachi bands that played until 3:00 a.m. while people danced and celebrated.

I was embraced by Arturo’s family, friends and the community stretching between a long lost brother and a celebrity. Laughing men shook my hand and slapped me on the back. Smiling women kissed me on the cheek and fed me until I felt I would burst. Each year at the festival they held a soccer game between the local team and a team comprised of men who had immigrated out of the country and returned to visit, and I was included on this team as the honorary gringo. They tousled my hair and good-naturedly teased me when we watched Mexico beat the USA in a World Cup qualifying game. They made sure I had a dancing partner for every dance until I was so exhausted I had to hide in Arturo’s truck to get some rest. I had never experienced generosity and hospitality to this extent before.

On the last day of my visit, we went to a pig roast at Arturo’s grandfather’s. A small man in a pressed white cowboy shirt and bolo tie, his white cowboy hat was so broad it seemed almost too heavy for him to balance. When Arturo introduced me to him, he took both my hands in his and quietly and very seriously said something to me in Spanish. I asked Arturo what he said.

“He wants to thank you for what you and your country have done for his family,” Arturo said. Understanding that Arturo had translated his words, he nodded at me, continuing to grip my hands.

“You’re welcome,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

When I hear the anti-immigrant rhetoric going around these days, the first image that pops into my head is the image of this kind, dignified old man, to whom I symbolized a country to which he felt so much gratitude. I think of these humble, generous, joyful people who embraced me so eagerly. I think in these times it’s easy to forget the humanity we share with all people from every corner of the earth. Sure, there are bad people in Mexico like anywhere else. But I certainly didn’t meet any rapists or murderers. The experience I describe is not the whole experience of a culture, but an important part of the whole. One that affected me deeply. I offer it in the hopes you have room for it in your worldview as well.

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen—a conversation with filmmaker and Neon Movies Director, Jonathan McNeal.

It’s Oscar season and I recently sat down with Jonathan McNeal, a filmmaker, critic, and managing director of THE NEON in Dayton, Ohio. I wanted to know what great movies were out there that most of us probably have never seen, and he had plenty to share. So if you are tired of superhero movies or are just looking for something with some art and depth, here are some great options.

JM: “When Joe said he wanted to talk about some of my favorite, non-mainstream films, I came up with a short list rather quickly.   I have a lot of favorite films as well as favorite filmmakers, but the list below is what came to mind off the top of my head. (I left out favorites like ORLANDO and THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE and the E.M. Forster trilogy from Merchant Ivory (A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MAURICE and HOWARD’S END). I also left off favorite documentaries like THE GLEANERS AND I and GREY GARDENS. And because he was looking for non-mainstream films, I purposefully left out the classic Hollywood films I love (an endless list). As it turns out, in one way or another, the films I have included are all love stories. It wasn’t intentional…but it’s certainly interesting to note.”

I AM LOVE, directed by Luca Guadagnino (2009)

Emma left Russia to live with her husband in Italy. Now a member of a powerful industrial family, she is the respected mother of three, but feels unfulfilled. One day, Antonio, a talented chef and her son’s friend, makes her senses kindle. Staring Tilda Swinton, it was nominated for best costume design.

JM: “This is my favorite film of the past 10 years. Tilda Swinton can do anything (including speaking Italian with a Russian accent), and this film is full of incredible architecture, design and sensuality.”

UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, directed by Jacques Demy (1964)

This French/German international co-production musical film directed by Jacques Demy, starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo.

JM: “This film is a classic that introduced the world to Catherine Deneuve. It’s sung from beginning to end, and the color palette is incredible. I have watched the last 10 minutes at least 50 times.”

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, directed by Pedro Almodovar (1999)

Young Esteban wants to become a writer and also to discover the identity of his father, carefully concealed by his mother Manuela.

TALK TO HER, by Pedro Almodovar (2002)

This is an offbeat drama that explores the friendship of two men brought together under unusual but strangely similar circumstances while they care for two women who are both in deep comas.

JM: “Pedro Almodovar is my favorite director (ever), and these two films are masterpieces. The casts, the scores, the stories, the art direction, the cinematography…all divine. And I love it when great films introduce me to other artists whom I later learn to love and admire. TALK TO HER was my first exposure to Pina Bausch – and I’m so grateful for that.”

UNDER THE SAND, directed by Francois Ozon (2000)

One of French Director Ozon’s earliest films, When her husband goes missing at the beach, a female professor begins to mentally disintegrate as her denial of his disappearance becomes delusional.

JM: “Francois Ozon is another favorite director. Though his films often wander from genre to genre, he is a prolific and brilliant director. See also 8 WOMEN, SWIMMING POOL and IN THE HOUSE – as well as numerous incredible short films.)

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, directed by Wong Kar-wai (2000)

Two neighbors, a woman and a man, form a strong bond after both suspect extramarital activities of their spouses. However, they agree to keep their bond platonic so as not to commit similar wrongs.

JM: “This gorgeous film is full of longing and the score is out of this world.”

SUMMERTIME, directed by David Lean (1955)

Most people know Lean for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI…but this bittersweet little charmer with Katherine Hepburn is Jonathan’s favorite film of his.  It was Lean’s favorite too. It’s the story of a lonely American woman who unexpectedly finds romance in Venice, Italy. Katherine Hepburn was nominated for best actress and Lean for best director.

JM: “I love both the Hepburns – Audrey and Katherine. Though some of their Hollywood films are high on my list of favorites, I think this little movie often goes unsung. This gem speaks volumes regarding ‘it’s not too late,’ and Hepburn will break your heart.”

Happy watching everyone!

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

What You Fear Is Not what You Think. Wisdom from Steven Pressfield that Will Surprise–and Enlighten You.

Resistance feeds on fear. We experience resistance as fear but fear of what?

Fear of the consequences of following our heart. Fear of Bankruptcy, fear of poverty, fear of insolvency. Fear of groveling when we try to make it on our own, and of groveling when we give up and come crawling back to where we started. Fear of being selfish, of being rotten wives or disloyal husbands; fear of failing to support our families, of sacrificing their dreams for ours. Fear of being ridiculous. Fear of throwing away the education, the training, the preparation that those we love have sacrificed so much for, that we ourselves have worked our butts off for. Fear of launching into the void, of hurtling too far out there; fear of passing some point of no return, beyond which we cannot recant, cannot reverse, cannot rescind, but must live with this cocked-up choice for the rest of our lives. Fear of madness. Fear of insanity. Fear of death.

These are serious fears. But they’re not the real fear. Not the Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears that’s so close to us that even when we verbalize it we don’t believe it.

Fear that we will succeed.

That we can access the powers we secretly know we possess.

That we can become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are.

We fear discovering that we are more than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear this because if it’s true, then we come estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane.

We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, wit nothing and no one to hold on to.

Of course this is exactly what happens. But here’s the trick. We wind up in space, but not alone. Instead we are tapped into an unquenchable, undepletable, inexhaustible source of wisdom, consciousness, companionship. Yeah, we lose friends. But we find friends too, in place we never thought to look. And they’re better friends, truer friends. And we are better and truer to them.

–  Steven Pressfield, from The War of Art

 

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian

If you like the blog and/or the book, the best way you can support it is by sharing it with others and by giving it an honest rating at the Amazon link above.   Thanks for checking in.

 

 

How to Escape the Road to Nowhere: an Interview with Engineer to Performance Artist Laurana Wong

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Laurana Wong was a good student in high school and excelled at many subjects. Like so many of us at that age, she didn’t really know what she wanted to do with her life so when she entered college, she took the advice of her father and teachers and majored in engineering. She graduated and got a good, secure and lucrative job as an engineer. American dream fulfilled, right?

Not so much. It didn’t take long for Laurana to become bored. Then depressed. Then really depressed. One day while working in the lab she broke down crying and had to go home. The next day she didn’t want to go back. But she did and her life continued to unravel. She started taking antidepressants. She started chain smoking. Checking out in front of the television for hours. She looked into the future and saw her life unfolding on a Long Road to Nowhere.

She made the initial step of cutting back her work hours from forty to twenty-one a week. But that wasn’t enough. It took a full-blown mental breakdown for her to finally accept: this is not my life.

She quit her job and starting exploring her artistic side. She made connections with creative people and groups and started organizing her own artistic events. She found a love for performance art and began performing live. It was scary but exhilarating. She felt alive again and she felt whole. For the first time in a long time, she felt she was living her life, not someone else’s version of her life. She eventually sold her home and most of her possessions and spent time traveling the country before returning to Dayton to start yet another wave of her life.

She could have kept her job as an engineer, continuing to receive a paycheck, have benefits and comforting herself with the illusion that she was secure and safe. And she would have lived a very unfulfilling life. She wasn’t meant to be an engineer, but it took a lot of pain to accept that and push through her fear.

“Without the nervous breakdown, I would never have woken up,” she said. I wouldn’t wish such an experience on others, but in retrospect, it was a gift because I don’t think I could have made the drastic changes I did without it.”

Laurana learned many things from her experience and many of these lessons are valuable for all of us.

First, she shut off outside influences and stopped listening to other peoples’ advice. Instead, she turned inward. She gave full attention to her own inner voice for the first time. Second, she let art guide her. She used performance art as an experiment into how to engage with others and with the world. She wanted it to be a pure, vulnerable human experience. And this taught her much about herself. She has learned that life is a series of transitions and her experiences have taught her to embrace these changes instead of fearing them. What serves us now may not be what serves us later. Be present, awake and open to these changes.

But if you are considering making a big life change, Laurana advises taking a more gentle transition than she did. Making radical changes quickly is jarring. Develop a plan while still working your money making job. “Go exploring,” she advises. “Find the things that get you juiced up. Experiment with new things. You may fly blind for a while before you know what your passion is. Finding your truth is an ongoing process.”

Finding our truths is an ongoing process for all of us. And at times of transition, it can be quite scary. But as Laurana knows, it’s even scarier to contemplate living an unfulfilled life. And the price is high. Too high.

Find your dance, bohemians, and don’t look back. And when that dance no longer inspires you, change your rhythm and embrace the next one.

 

 

One from the Archives to Start the New Year: Why We are all Lottery Winners.

Recently I listened to a podcast about WWI from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Dan does fascinating and well-researched episodes on all areas of history, but this one struck me in particular because prior to listening I didn’t understand the scope of devastation, destruction and human costs to that war. But it taught me a valuable lesson on just how lucky we are to live here, now, in this particular time and place. It is a gift that human beings have never experienced in the entire existence of mankind. And we so often take it for granted.

To understand the immensity of this gift, we must break it down to its core. In our homes we have running, clean, hot and cold water, refrigerators for our food, machines to wash our dishes and our clothes, furnaces for the winter and air conditioners for the summer. We have aspirin for our headaches and cars to take us wherever we choose. These “basic” things that most of us have are more luxuries than King Louis the XIV experienced at Versailles only three hundred years ago. The smart phones in our pockets contain more technology and information in them than Bill Clinton had access to as President only twenty years ago.

The comedian Louis C.K. was on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and sat next to a man who was irate that the plane’s Wi-Fi was down. Louis pointed out that in less than two centuries ago it took a year for settlers to travel the same distance, a trip that was plagued by attacks and disease and many would die before they ever reached their destination. “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky and you will be there in three hours—and you are complaining?” he joked. Good point.

In Freakanomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner point out that despite the conflicts and disasters that the news media love to report, we are currently living in the most peaceful time in all recorded history. Think about that: it is estimated that 108 billion people have lived on this planet. And we are the ones that get to live here now. The magnitude of that gift is startling. We have truly won the lottery.

And that’s the bare basics that almost all of us share. If you have a good job, you are blessed with something millions don’t have. Appreciate it. If you have someone that loves you and loves you back, you have something beautiful that many lonely and broken-hearted folks do not. Remember that the next time you feel irritated that your partner didn’t pick up his socks.

I’m not minimizing the real human suffering that we all will experience from time to time, but remembering the abundance of gifts we have been given that the majority of all human beings never experienced can alleviate the suffering, give us strength to bear it, and to remind us that despite our troubles, are blessings are so much more.

And the best gift we’ve been given of all? Because we are so much safer, educated and prosperous and don’t have to worry about our shelter, clothing, food or being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger, we can focus on making the world even better. There is still much to fix, and those living in the 21st century are better equipped to do so than all those who have paved the way for us. The best way we can thank the people that suffered and died to create the world we’ve been given is to continue the progress forward. Let’s keep it goin’.

If you enjoy, the Abundant Bohemian blog posts, the best compliment you can make is to share it with others whom you believe may appreciate it. The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live An Unconventional Life is now available wherever books are sold. I hope you check it out.

How to Accept and Get Along with Those Who We fundamentally Disagree With.

This week I’ve been spending some time with H., who has been a good friend, mentor, and advisor for over twenty years. We care deeply about each other but inevitably conversation finds its way into politics, whether it be global issues or the most personal, and I’m reminded once again that we don’t agree on anything. Even the most benign issues, the ones that I think even he has to agree with this, end up being a challenge for us. I’m often left thinking: what gives? How is it we can disagree on so much and yet be so close?

I’ve come to realize that although we disagree on almost everything on the larger scale, we are close because on the individual level—the part where we show up everyday and interact with the world—we are quite similar.

  1. We both believe in showing up everyday, doing our best with the hope to make something better.
  1. We both want to create something, something of value that will hopefully benefit others.
  1. We care for the people around us and want to help them in everyway we can.
  1. We know that life is a gift, a gift that can never be overvalued and that should be experienced with all the gratitude and wisdom we can muster.

And that’s why we are close. Why we love each other. We just often disagree on the path to achieve these goals. And that’s okay.

As we enter another election year where we are bombarded by rhetoric and divisiveness, try to remember what connects you with the people in your life instead of focusing on what separates you. It’s a difficult task, I know. But if we step back from whatever position others are taking that is repugnant to us and try to see them as human beings wearing their own tinted glasses (just as we wear our own) it becomes harder to be angry and judgmental. Anger and judgment make us less than who we are. Empathy and compassion makes us better than who we are.

It’s a practice like anything else. And we are entering a season where that practice will be tested. Rise to the challenge, my friends.

The 90-Day Year: Rethinking Your Long Term Goals.

I recently listened to an episode of Freedom Fast Lane, a podcast where author and entrepreneur Ryan Moran interviews performance coach and advisor, Todd Herman. Todd works with high-level athletes and entrepreneurs on their ‘inner game,’ and had eighteen clients compete at the last Olympics. In this podcast, Ryan and Todd discuss making goals and the concept of the 90-Day Year. Todd believes that setting long term goals can be counterproductive and the psychological reason behind setting 90-day schedules is that they provide a more tangible ‘horizon’ line.  This can apply to physical fitness, your business, art or anything else you want to achieve.

Following this method, it only takes a few tweaks to your mindset to get a huge lift in performance. The enemy to confidence and momentum is confusion and uncertainty. Confidence can be built and isn’t something that is instilled upon you at birth. Confidence is the byproduct of incremental, constant, and consistent improvement. He advises you  ask yourself, “What is the highest impact skill that, if I improved right now, would give the highest impact on my performance?” That is what you should be developing.

Todd explained there are three types of goals you need to be cognizant of during your 90-day year:

             1) Outcome Goals:

Outcome goals are ones that are measurable, such as “in ninety days, I want to have lost twenty pounds.” It’s fine to have such goals, but they can be problematic. Focusing only on the outcome creates high levels of stress and anxiety. We don’t have complete control over these and not meeting them leads to a sense of failure and make you more prone to stop even when making progress.

              2) Performance Goals:

What are you going to improve in order to get to the outcome goal? Break your outcome goal into performance goals over two week periods that you can measure throughout the process, e.g. n the next two weeks, I am going to the gym five times.

               3) Process Goals:

Who is going to do What, When, and Where? Knowing this will provide clarity and momentum. You have 100% control over process goals. One of the ways out of the state of anxiety and overwhelm is to measure progress incrementally. Actions of the past provide concrete data on what you have done. This will give you a high level of awareness and you will feel rewarded when you can measure small steps forward.

Last, pay attention to the concept of “character crafting.” This is the conscious process of developing into the type of person you want to become. Developing skills and making right choices need to be practiced and built over time though conscious effort. It’s possible to choose the evolutionary process of who you want to be, and one useful tool for this is to create an alter ego. Choose a spirit animal or a super hero you immolate. This substitute “ego”  provides an opportunity to strip away fears and doubts.  Start by asking, “How would I be performing if I was ‘that’ person?” It helps to have what Todd calls “totems” or “artifacts” that triggers that character, such as a sweatband or watch. Remember to give your alter ego a name and provide yourself with scenarios you can visualize. You can do this by asking questions like “What is ‘Max’ going to be doing today? How would he respond in this situation?”

This summary just skims the surface. If you’d like to hear the full podcast interview, you can follow the link below.

http://freedomfastlane.com/todd-herman-making-goals-inevitable-with-90-day-sprints/

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian

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