Sep 2017

Life is cyclical. This shouldn't come as a surprise seeing how everything around us works in cycles. The seasons change, the sun rises and sets, our heart beats...  things repeat. Life, much like the evolutionary process that drives it, is a matter a repetition with occasional variation. Those occasional variations produce change, but the repetitive nature of energy is what drives it forward.

As such, perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me this evening, when I sat down to write my first blog post in a long time, that I discovered my last post was exactly a year ago. Perhaps it shouldn't surprise me that once again I've begun a period of serious reflection on my health and life. It is after all September – and for the first half of my life that meant going back to school and new beginnings. New teachers, new subjects and fresh sneakers. My parents were both teachers, so this experience of things starting over again in September was deeply rooted in my entire upbringing. For the same reason I find it nearly impossible to focus on work in the summer, I am immediately inspired to transform my life in September. Nearly twenty years after my final course, I still find myself bound to the academic calendar - my internal clock is ready to start a new year.

I am a bit disappointed that I took an entire year off of writing on the blog. I would say my attention turned to vlogging, but truth be told I didn't produce much on that front either. To recap the past year, shortly after writing the last post on sobriety I decided to take to leap and go sober. It was a staggered start to say the least, but by October I had stopped drinking entirely and maintained sobriety until shortly before New Years.  Three months of not drinking was a very powerful experience and opened my eyes to a lot of issues not only in my own life, but in our culture in general. I've never had an attempt at self-improvement be met with more push-back and generally negative response from those around me. The experience made it clear just how much of my life revolved around intoxication and how difficult it was to find social activities outside of it. The improvements to health, energy, mental clarity and my wallet were all amazing. In fact, by the end of November things were going pretty great. I was feeling healthy, I was living in a million-dollar house on Maui, my business was going along smoothly. Then a bit surprisingly, my landlords (and friends) decided to sell the home I'd been living in. I had known this was always a possibility, but it had arrived sooner than expected. To make matters worse, the house ended up selling the first day it was on the market, and suddenly I found myself with only a couple weeks to find a new place to live on Maui. At the same time, a long-time client announced they were migrating their website budget into their marketing budget, and asked me to throw my hat in the ring at the larger scope. While the opportunity was exciting, the potential downside was that if I didn't land the larger gig, I would lose one of my best clients. With my housing situation suddenly in limbo and a must-win project to close in Portland I made the decision in less than 24 hours to relocate back to Portland. It was excruciatingly hard to give up Maui - a place that is not only beautiful but to which I have a strong spiritual connection. What was even harder was it was now January - and Portland was experiencing its worst winter in decades. I went from 82 and perfect to snow covered streets and frigid winds. Having no furniture, I rented a studio apartment and purchased an air mattress on Amazon to arrive before I showed up. And so there I was on January 1st, in an empty studio apartment on the 17th floor of an apartment building in South Waterfront - looking over a snow covered Portland wondering if I had made a mistake.

I had. Many in fact. Portland was cold and miserable and the various issues that had inspired my initial migration to Hawaii were not only still present but had multiplied. It was wonderful to be back in my old studio for work – but as if I'd entered some alternative reality upon my return to Oregon, I discovered my long-time friend and business partner no longer considered herself to be either, as she made clear in a series of emails, and with no discussion to be had, a partnership of ten years came to a rather unceremonious end. I didn't land the project I'd returned for and in the process lost the client. That combined with the loss of an even larger client the prior year left my company without an anchor client. By the time July came around a month-long trip to Europe had to be cut down to just two weeks due to lack of funds, but not before cutting lose the studio – the last remaining constant – and making the hard decision to move on from Old Town and the remnants of what I'd mistaken for a great partnership.

Europe was cleansing – getting away always is. But the problem with leaving is the return, and upon returning in August I found myself in a bit of a funk. Business was strong - up on last year despite the various setbacks. I even managed to land The Westin as a client - my largest client to date which will hopefully lead to many new opportunities.  But the question that kept bringing me down was "what's the point?" I created The Interactive Dept. as a lifestyle business - in the sense that its purpose was never to create wealth and recognition, awards or accolades... but to provide me with the freedom to live as I wanted. In Maui it seemed I'd found that sweet-spot. And now here I was, on a hot August day in Portland, fully aware that I could go and be anything I wanted...  without a single vision of what that might be. I was bored... inexcusably so. My initial reaction after the start of the year was to accept reality as it presented itself and then work to rise above it as I always have. And I'd tied up the loose ends, walked away from the things I couldn't fix and rebooted the business for the umpteenth time...  and I knew I could do it again. But what's the point...

And so I marinaded in that frustration for a few weeks. I got lazy and sloppy and fat. I managed to exceed my own highest weight. Lucky for me my rock-bottom is usually still pretty high in the clouds - and I found it and I decided enough was enough. I'm currently on day 4 of a transformation. Sober and cleansing, exercising and focused on finding purpose. I see multiple paths again, but I realize that this time before I head out on the adventure, I need to take care of myself first. I'm not the best I can be and I will continue to meet with unforeseen circumstances, and worsening challenges if I don't start at the source. I'm not upset about the past year – if anything I'm impressed at how easily I let it all go. I've learned that nothing is permanent and so I'm only thankful for the wonderful experiences I have, not the the imagined ones that never came to pass. I've learned to let go – what I need to master now is welcoming in. Opening my mind and heart to all the potential that exists. 

And so it begins again. Nearly a year to the day. A journey to find clarity not in the world around me – something I've accepted I will never be granted – but within myself. It is time to discover new truths about myself as I am introduced to new people and new potentials. Unlike last time, I hope to document this journey a bit more on the blog. 

Let the school year begin!

"Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes."

— Ramana Maharshi

Sep 2016

There's been a philosophical battle of sorts going through my mind for much of this year. It may be partially to blame for the lack of posts or any creative output for that matter. Its the question of intoxication and what exactly the pros and cons of it are. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I often talk of the benefits of silence and meditation and searching for truth – and those are big parts of my life. However, another large part of my existence is my social life. I have a wonderful assortment of friends and trusted companions who I share this journey with. However I began to notice something – apart from a few rare exceptions, the majority of those relationship center around drinking – or at the very least the only time in which the relationships are experienced is in an environment where drinking is occurring.

I lived in Portland, Oregon for nearly a decade. It is beervana... more microbreweries than any other city in the world, and thus you did everything at a bar. Birthdays, networking events, Wednesdays... I even voted from the bar (Oregon has mail-in ballots). With that culture came a healthy attitude towards IPAs and tolerance (both in capacity and acceptance) for having five or more pints in a sitting and having those sessions multiple times a week.

You are, as they say, the average of the folks you spend the most time with – and most of my friends thus shared a similar lifestyle to mine. I worked for myself with my own business where I could make my own hours. Friends that didn't share in that lifestyle would join in on Fridays, but in general there was a community of folks that made this casual alcoholism seem commonplace. As I could never be late for work, or fired for performance — and didn't even own a car for the majority of my time in Portland — the consequences of that lifestyle through my late 20s and 30s was pretty minimal... or so I thought.

Which takes us back to the recent conundrum. Having moved to Maui three years ago my lifestyle hasn't changed much. While my options are far more limited and the number of friends to socialize dwindled when leaving a big city for a quiet island – I still managed to find great folks who just happen to enjoy cold pints. So after a brief hiatus upon arrival, many of my old habits returned. And it was great. Life on Maui has been spectacular to say the least. But that thought... that nagging thought.

And it goes something like this: There is a life far greater than the one I'm presently experiencing — available to me if I discover my true self.

I suspect this because I have tasted it in my own life, seen another close friend find it even deeper, and know of many on the other side who live in this space that I admire and see genuine peace and happiness within.

There are three things the present lifestyle of intoxication effects that would be radically altered if I was to give it up entirely. The first and simple one is finances. I tallied up all the $45 visits to the local microbrewery and various other pricey engagements on Maui — taking $25 from a $45 dinner here and there — and reached a total of $767.83 for the month of August. This might even be a tad low because it really only includes purchases made using a debit card — so we can say roughly $800 or so a month "hanging out". It's funny I'll walk away from a polo shirt in the store if its over $40, but I'll order up a handful of $6+ pints or $13 cocktails without blinking an eye. At nearly $800/month we're talking roughly $9600 a year in intoxication expenses. My trip to Japan when it was all said and done cost under $5000... so that is two amazing vacations a year I could be taking instead of getting intoxicated. That right there is probably reason alone to change my behavior.

The second obvious reason would be health. I am unfortunately back up to nearly 200 pounds. If you read the blog regularly you'll know that at one point I was at 215 — and I did the Whole30 last year and brought myself down to about 180. I was super proud and feeling great. But its hard to marry that lifestyle of eating healthy and running daily with a social lifestyle of binge drinking. Its hard to get up to run in the morning when you're hungover. Its pointless to eat a salad for lunch if you're going to have five beers later then order some crappy food at a bar. You can't live healthy half the time. I don't like being overweight. I don't like the way clothes fit on me. I don't like the knowledge that my life is getting shorter. There is absolutely no defense against the health argument that I can find.

The final area of my life is my potential. This is more of an abstract concept I suppose. But it stems from the notion that there are many things I could or could not do in this lifetime. I have been blessed to be extremely creative and to have been born in a time when one can share that creativity online. I really believe I have the potential to create amazing work and share it with the world. The only thing that holds me back from creating more videos and taking more photos and writing more stories and learning more things is time. I never seem to have enough. When I look at all those costs for the month of August above, I also realize that each of those $45 engagements is also many hours. It's the 4pm—7pm at the bar... but its also the rest of that night, when now because I'm intoxicated all I can do is watch TV or play a video game. If that is happening four or five nights a week, I am losing countless hours of potential. Hours where I could be creating new things and sharing with new people and learning and growing and discovering what I am capable of. I will never discover anything about myself at the bar – I have heard those stories and met those people.

So there it is. I'm burning through $10,000 year, ruining my health and wasting my time in the pursuit of intoxication. And what would be the positive impacts of an alternative lifestyle? Certainly I would lose weight. I eat rather healthy to begin with – so eliminating beer and bar foods would no doubt have a radical impact on my weight. The extra time and clean-living lifestyle would inevitably result in more exercise and likely new healthy activities. The extra money saved would no doubt be matched by increased earnings as a sober mind applied to my own business and new potential opportunities would no doubt create more revenue. Healthy activities and a healthy lifestyle would inevitably introduce healthy people into my life as well. It would also likely inspire close friends of mine to explore their potential.

While the argument for moderation is a strong one it would only lessen the negative effects of alcoholism and damper the potential outcomes of sobriety. A constant battle with myself to "be good" one day with the knowledge of rewards in the form of the very thing I'm looking to modify. The reward has to be the clarity, not the clouding. And if I'm going to be honest with myself, my present state is one of moderation... as liberal as it may be. Holding back hasn't and will not work.

It is not really an argument I suppose, but rather an inconvenient truth. I'm 38 years old. There are two lives that I could live throughout my 40s. One of the greatest gifts man has is the ability to predict the future. I'm not saying with pinpoint accuracy, but a mind capable of extracting truths and working out scenarios of potentials. There are various potentials in my late 40s associated with each lifestyle. There is ZERO doubt the sober path has the greater outcomes. The only question is can I start walking there before its too late.

I'm going to try.

"Know thyself. Long for wisdom."

— Delphic maxims

Sep 2016

I was going to be in Europe this fall. In fact, I have the ticket. A combination of low European air-fares and the collapse of the British Pound after the whole Brexit fiasco created an opportunity where I was able to score a one-way ticket to London for about $160 flying out of California.  I bought the ticket without much of a plan as to what a fall European adventure might look like, but in that instant reality began to shift.

For me, reality is nothing more than thoughts coming to fruition. This process only occurs through action, but in the instant an action is applied to a thought, reality is forced to shift. I like to see it as a team of workers building the set for the movie that is my life. Each time I as the director make a script change, they're forced to abandon their present efforts and focus on the new direction. In the case of Europe, the original script had me in Hawaii for the fall - and so I'm sure the reality staff had been hard at work making plans for those stories to unfold. The purchase of a ticket to Europe scrapped those ideas and created entirely new scenarios, places and people to encounter.

Alas...  I can't make it to Europe this fall. Business is strong, there are events to attend... the enthusiasm in which the ticket was purchased gave way to the reality that jaunting off to Europe in October, while exciting, isn't in the cards. Instead, I'll be spending nearly a month in Portland and then about three weeks up in New York with my family.  So once again the reality team - having just arrived in Europe - is heading back to the States to make preparations for Portland.

I rarely can see more than a few months out in my life these days. At the moment I am living in a home with friends who asked me to watch their house for several months. I'd been living in a small one-bedroom apartment and so the opportunity to take care of a 5-bedroom, million-dollar home with ocean views was a no-brainer. But the moment I took the offer I knew it wasn't permanent - change was inevitable. I'll be on the mainland for two months now, and then when I return they are leaving once more and I'll watch the house again till they return in January. At that point I'll likely move somewhere new.  Here on Maui...  back on the Mainland... further out into the world.  It's hard to say because I honestly haven't thought it out yet. The reality team is waiting patiently for me to make my choice. And there we find ourselves in a stand-off... reality waiting for me to choose, and me patiently allowing it to simply unfold before me. The two of us, standing at the doorway of the present moment, repeating to each other, "Please, after you..."

There has been too much noise lately. The quiet of early summer replaced by activity and work and socializing and stress. It is time to clear that all away and return to the silence. The peace that existed at the start of the year brought forth a vision of Japan that led to some of the best weeks of my life. It is time to listen to breeze at dawn again. It is time to discover the next path.

"Take one moment, whatever it is you want, however mundane or profound, and just stop looking for it. And you will find more than what you could ever want. Because more than what can be wanted, is already who you are."

- Gangaji

Jul 2016

There was a beautiful rainbow outside my ohana this morning.  I was standing on the Lanai admiring it when I thought I should probably capture the moment to share on social media. I went inside to get my phone, which I discovered I'd left downstairs, and upon retrieving the device and returning to the second floor lanai, I discovered the rainbow was gone. Rainbows are like that - they come and go here on Maui in an instant. Sometime they are brilliant and stretching over the mountainside in epic grandeur – other times they hang like sheer silk flags beside a patch of clouds. Regardless of strength or position, all rainbows pass out of sight eventually.  

All things come into reality and then fade from its grasp - that is the very nature of reality itself. Now you see it, now you don't. Nowhere is that truth more visceral than here in Hawaii - these tiny islands momentarily reaching out from the ocean's depths, only to return to the sea eventually.  With each crashing wave a piece of this island is taken, and yet Pele is hard at work on the southern tip of the Big Island crafting new landscapes for future generations to flourish upon. 

My experience, too, is a fleeting one. Just a glimpse at all the complexity and majesty that is reality. While I feel there will be others, this particular perspective - this experience - is unique and has a beginning and an end, albeit of an undetermined nature. And yet, even with complete awareness of this, I time and again find myself living as if this experience is not unique and sacred and fleeting, but rather mundane and endless – letting days and sometimes weeks pass in repetition and routine, work and distractions, as if it was to last forever. As if my time wasn't precious. 

I've woken up again - or rather, I'm in the process of waking up. My eyes are adjusting to the daylight, the malaise of the uninspired life still lingers like a hangover, but I'm remembering that there is more to this experience than the illusions culture and media and society have put forth as truth. There is more going on behind the curtain than on the stage – I'm remembering there is a stage at all.

Traveling to Japan was a catalyst - a bridge to both past and future that jumpstarted my imagination and reminded me of all the places yet to explore. In their dazzling cities I was reminded of all the people I've yet to meet – the cultures still to be explored and the adventures still to be had. In their ancient temples I was reminded of all the truth that exists within silence and the subtle clues of harmony and symmetry and simplicity that point to larger truths which can only be felt, not expressed in words.

Its is time to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. It is time to abandon media and rediscover community. It's time to ignore social media and instead be social - get out and explore this reality placed before me while I still have the time.

"Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

- The Diamond Sutra

Jun 2015

This morning I was having internet issues at home - no connection. When you run your own online marketing company internet is sort of important... no internet, no work. I realized however that it was Tuesday, and as such it wasn't a problem because Tuesday is "Work Remotely Tuesday!" So I packed up my stuff, headed out the front door and soon thereafter found myself working beside a lovely fountain overlooking the ocean from the lobby of a hotel on Kaanapali, drinking a delicious espresso as I borrowed some of the wifi they so generously provide.

It'd be hard to say what I love best about working for myself - but mornings like those are high on the list. I am working... but I am doing so barefoot, with a warm Hawaiian breeze blowing the smell of plumeria flowers and salt air into my virtual office. Yesterday I took off mid-day and continued my work in the evening. Having that sort of control over how my week unfolds is vital as the workweek is really just the waking hours of your real life.

When I first started my career, things were a lot different. My first job out of college was working for IT-MIS (Information Technology Management Information Services). As the name suggests, this wasn't exactly a hip internet marketing company. This was a rather stale office environment: ultraviolet lights, windowless rooms and a dress code. A few weeks after working there I was reprimanded for wearing shorts to work, the irony of the moment being completely missed by my boss Joy who was wearing a short skirt as she explained the importance of pants in a work environment. After a few months, it became genuinely difficult to get up and go to work every morning – I felt every minute of the work day and longed to escape. When I explained I was quitting to move to Oregon, they threw me a going-away party in one of the windowless meetings rooms with a group of people I barely knew. The look of genuine fear on the faces of my colleagues as I explained I had no job lined up in Oregon was palpable... but my fear at the time was staying in a place like that. They feared change, I feared repetition. They feared the unknown, I feared predictability. I headed out west, found little to no work, struggled to make ends meet, lost my girlfriend, got evicted from an apartment for late rent, worked for a handful of failed start-ups, and was never happier in my life.

Change, as they say, is the only constant in life. Most folks fear change – they prefer the known to the unknown. Even an unpleasant known is superior to a potentially positive unknown for many. As such - they define how life "is" and then find themselves frustrated each time they discover it is not or no longer that way. This separation between how we think life will be and how we experience it, is where all our frustrations spring from. Meditation guru Thom Knoles puts it beautifully – "Suffering is proportional to our resistance to change, and happiness is proportional to ability to embrace change."

One reason we have such a resistance to change is that our mind finds it far easier to accept what might go wrong, than accept what might go right. And so we can stack the negative "what ifs" against the potential upside, and often find our confidence lacking to move forward. Yet ironically, when we do take the steps forward to make a change, we almost always find that it was for the best. I call this the "re-arranging the furniture" phenomenon. Have you ever re-arranged the furniture in a room and not thought it was better afterwards? Recently I switched around my living room and the moment it was done I declared - "this is so much better". Was it... perhaps... but honestly, how can a couch's placement in the room be better or worse? It's the change that is better - and to Knoles point - our ability to embrace the change that makes us feel good.

Part of why I like "Work Remotely Tuesday" is that it injects a nice dose of unpredictability into my work routine. I typically find a coffeeshop or hotel lobby here on Maui and hope that they have wifi so I can connect to the internet. By not having a particular spot in mind, you open yourself to limitless potential rather than a 50/50 shot or worse of getting a seat at the location you wanted. I enjoy meandering through the various hotels that line the shores of Kaanapali to find unique little work-stations and often in these walks discover all sorts of new things I hadn't previously seen. By injecting a bit of the unknown into our routine, we invite opportunities and new discoveries to enter into our life.

After a morning work session I decided to walk back home. Along the way I discovered a new food cart with delicious tacos I couldn't help but indulge in. If the change of scenery isn't a good enough reason to mix up your routine, certainly discovering new delicious tacos is!

Folks spend far too much time doing things they don't enjoy in places they'd rather not be. We then call those jobs and act as if it wasn't our choice in the first place to be there. As if having a job – any job – is just a painful necessity of life. Now obviously we need money and that money typically has to be earned – but the notion that the only way to earn it is by giving up the majority of your life to something you'd rather not be doing is a complete falsehood. It's the fear of change that keeps folks married to these jobs. It's scary to try and improve ones life - its hard work to learn new things and get out of your comfort zone. It takes confidence and a little bit of courage to leave a job you dislike for the unpredictability of creating your own future. But in the end, what else are you here for? To work? To earn a paycheck? Do you really believe that reality was formed and you were given this amazing experience of life just so that you could work a job you dislike or maintain a lifestyle that doesn't inspire you? And even if your life is grand – even if your job is fulfilling – is there nothing more to see? Aren't you curious what might happen if you worked remotely next Tuesday? 

Break from your routines and try new things. Create situations that you have no pre-conceived thoughts or plans regarding...  and enjoy the pleasure of watching life unfold before you. Plans only reinforce the illusion that you have control – random chance allows you to realize you wouldn't want control even if you had it. Re-arrange the furniture of your existence and stand back to marvel at the improvements that reveal themselves. Finding pleasure in these small uncertainties will only help you learn to accept and find the beauty in the larger changes life throws at you.

Life is change... it is the very nature of reality. Now you see it, now you don't. Holding on to memories of the past is as futile as the child defending their sandcastle on the beach. It doesn't matter how hard you try... change will come. Embrace it – celebrate it – and know that it brings with it the unlimited potential that is life.

"There is no chaos in the world, except the chaos which your mind creates. It is self-created in the sense that at it’s very center is the false idea of oneself as a thing separate from other things. In reality you are not a thing, nor are you separate. You are the infinite potentiality, the inexhaustible possibility. Because you are, all can be. The universe is but a partial manifestation of your limitless capacity to become."

- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Jun 2015

The photo above is of my lovely niece Airlie – and in case you can't tell, she's currently in "time out".  Yes, she is being punished. My sister posted this photo earlier this week on Facebook and it really cracked me up, because it so captures one of the greatest truths of life: the present moment is yours to interpret.  A time-out is only a punishment if you convince yourself that sitting on the steps is a sad thing. Now I'm not trying to suggest that the time-out wasn't still effective, as I'm sure it at least temporarily ceased whatever actions warranted its initiation – but the large grin on Airlie's face suggests her mind hadn't interpreted the present situation as a downer in any way, shape or form.

As we get older and move out into a world without chaperones, we very rarely find ourselves in time-out (well, unless you end up in the court system, but that's a topic for another post). However, we often end up putting ourselves into a whole different type of time-out, one defined by our emotions and interpretations of the day. A time-out of the mind. An event or interaction, or lack of either can set us off, and before we know it one of several emotions begin to fog our experience of life. This can be sadness, anger, jealousy, frustration, self-doubt, apathy, fear or any number of negative moods that take you out of your typical routine and color that experience with negative thoughts that then only manifest themselves into a myriad of situations that seem out to get you. The experience can get so unpleasant that we cancel engagements and activities, break healthy habits and even hide from the world. 

Much like a child being punished, who when asked why they're crying points to the parent rather than look within, we too often point to outside forces as the source of whatever affliction we presently find ourselves marinading in. It can be a relationship, a job, the community, the weather, an interaction with a store employee - there's endless causes if one looks hard enough - and typically the low hanging fruit is the first to be picked. However, if you're upset now because of something that happened a few hours ago, or days ago, or worse – years ago – then it's not that event or situation that is making you upset – it's you! You are choosing to feel this way. 

Now this might be the point where like the small child you stomp your foot and run off screaming. We really hate to admit that we choose to feel the way we feel. We prefer the "outside forces" viewpoint. We prefer to experience our emotions like weather, waking up each day hoping for the good kind. When the storm-front comes in, most simply bundle up and wait it out, seemingly unable to do anything to prevent or diffuse it. I disagree – not only can you do work to prevent emotional swings within your experience of life, you can also utilize various techniques to eliminate those fluctuations quickly and keep their scale minimal when those inevitably bumps in the road do enter your life. 

One of the key steps to prevention is taking time each day to appreciate just how wonderful your experience of life is. We often spend so much time looking to the future that we forget to appreciate how great we have it now.  Self-improvement guru Dan Sullivan calls this "The Gap".  Most of us spend our time focused on the future gap - the space between our goals and ideals and the present moment. This isn't always a bad thing – because it's important to set goals and have a clear vision of what you want out of life. However, this doesn't produce happiness. As I've mentioned before, achieving a goal doesn't create long-term fulfillment, it only creates new goals. In order to find happiness in our present moment, Dan Sullivan suggests we focus our attention occasionally on the past gap - acknowledging our accomplishment and achievements and how far we've come in the past year or two. If you've been setting goals and working to improve your life, looking back a year or two will allow you to reflect on the progress you've made. Rather than living in the shadow of your imagined future, you stand upon the precipice of your accomplishments. When negative situations arise, you won't be so quick to throw in the towel when you know how great you've been doing.

Another technique I enjoy comes from the 6-Phase Meditation by Vishen Lakhiani, the CEO of MindValley. In one of the six phases, you reflect on 5-10 things that happened in the past day or two that made you feel happy or positive.  This might be a compliment you received at work, a delicious dinner you cooked for yourself, how the sun light felt as you sipped your morning coffee - it's just a few minutes you spend each day to recap the best parts of the previous day. So often we get caught up in our routines that our lives are seemingly on auto-pilot. The days have a tendency to blend into each other and this simple practice allows you to slow things down and really appreciate the smaller details that make your day fulfilling. By starting to focus on the simple pleasure and the small victories that occur each day, you bring more attention to them in your daily experience and thus they seemingly appear to multiply and grow in number. By simply taking the time to appreciate your days, you make it harder for your mind to shift into a negative space that ignores all the good.

When negative experiences do come into your life – and they will – it is certainly fine to feel whatever emotions they stir up. That's why emotions exists – to help us make sense of the experiences around us. However, once the alarm has sounded and you've acknowledge and dealt with the situation - TURN OFF THE ALARM! To persist with whatever emotional trigger the event or situation brought forth after that event or situation has passed is a choice and a poor choice at that. 

One of the best techniques for clearing out a "funk" is to just throw reality a curve ball. Get out of your routine if it isn't working and try something totally different. Go to a restaurant you've never been to, take a long walk through a new neighborhood, take a road-trip to a place you've never been to and spend the night - whatever you need to do to get your mind to focus on something beyond the incident that has triggered you. Traveling is especially good as the mind has an amazing capacity to simulate environments it knows, and so staying at home or in familiar places allows the mind to used stored memories of the space you're within and focus its attention instead on making you miserable. By going to a place the mind has no prior records of, you force it to capture all the new information and it doesn't have the time to remind you that you're sad. 

Another great trick for dealing with a mental time-out is to kick-start your health routine. This is typically the opposite of what most folks do when they get in a funk, but it is honestly the fastest way out. Exercise is an amazing stimulant and energizes you body and mind. A little detox also never hurt – and what better time to engage in a "big change" than when things aren't really working so well. Whereas indulging in food or alcohol might seem warranted by whatever funk is poisoning your mind's experience of life – those types of behaviors inevitably feed into that negative cycle. Exercise and eating healthy on the other hand can only have positive results that you can point to as signs you're moving out of that funk (when you do your daily appreciation for the day before).

You've been given this amazing opportunity to experience life. So much of that experience is based on your mental and emotional health, and yet so many folks see those aspects of their life as some type of game of chance. There has been a wealth of research and science in the past half-century about the mind and how the brain works. There is no reason so many people should suffer from so many ailments related to the mind when there are so many simple and free techniques to strengthen the mind and thus improve your experience of life.  In October I'm helping to put on an event in Oregon called Activating Happy. It features various speakers talking about many of the topics I've discussed on this blog. It's the first of what I hope will be many events like this around the country where we introduce new research and personal stories of success from those who have broken free from passive thinking and have taken responsibility for their own happiness and well-being.

"It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about."

- Dale Carnegie

May 2015

When I was in grade school, I learned about percentages in math class and like any sophomoric young man who discovers a new fact, suddenly became quite frustrated when someone would say they gave 110%. For I knew quite intellectually that there could never be more than 100% – that was simply the most you could provide of anything and any number greater was pure exaggeration. As life would go on, I would begin to define in all areas of my life what that 100% limit was. What's the most money I could imagine making, what's the best shape I can imagine being in, what's the nicest place I could imagine living in, what's the best day I could experience? For each of these and in nearly every aspect of my life, I (as almost everyone does) created subconscious 100% markers – the big dreams – and then went about my life living at around 80% of those expectations. You see, I set a low bar and almost hit it - and was quite satisfied. That is, until I wasn't.

When I moved to Maui I began to start looking at some of these beliefs. Beliefs manifest themselves in the form of behaviors, which when repeated over time form habits in our life. Habits have three parts: a trigger, an action and a reward. At the end of last year, for example, I had a pretty healthy "dessert" habit. After dinner I would typically sit down to watch some television. I would start the show - but when the first commercial break would come, I would get up and scoop me out a bowl of ice cream. I'm sure at first this was just a "oooh, I have ice cream in the fridge" idea. But rather quickly, the three elements of a habit began to take shape. The trigger was the commercial break on the tv show, the action was making a bowl of ice cream, and the reward was... well... ice cream (or rather, the sugar rush to my brain). Before I knew it, I wasn't going "Oh... I have some ice cream in the fridge" - I was looking down at an empty bowl of ice cream on the table, having completely sleep-walked through the experience of the trigger and action, and barely even acknowledged the reward. All along I gained more and more weight. Now this didn't really matter to me, because at the time I weighed 210 pounds, and while I knew that was heavy, in my mind the best I could weigh would be about 200 pounds, so being 5-10 pounds overweight wasn't so bad. I had the wrong 100%.

As of this morning I weigh 187 pounds. Since the start of the year I've lost nearly 30 pounds and feel amazing. Where is the 100% now? I'm thinking 175... although we'll let nature determine my final weight destination. As my thoughts began to evolve and the paradigm of what I "should" weigh began to shift within my subconscious, so did my actions. No more ice cream in the evening. Instead, after my first espresso in the morning, I get a hankering to put on my running shoes. In the same way I would look down at the empty bowl of ice cream and think "I barely remember making that..." I now find myself 5 minutes into a run before I even realize I'm out the door. I've learned you can easily form new habits by understanding the process of trigger, action and reward.

Last fall when I started running again, my average pace was around 12 minutes a mile. I decided I would create a goal to break a 10 minute mile. That was my 100% and it took a few weeks, but slowly my pace began to lower, and finally one day I clocked in 9:57. I was psyched! I had hit my 100%. This week I ran 5 times and not once was I above 10 minutes. In fact, on Tuesday my average was 8:41 on a 5-mile run. What was once my 100% is now my average and the new 100% is undefined. This is as true on the small scale of ones personal life as it is on the grand scale of humanity as a whole. In 1861, Charles Westhall held the world record for the 1-mile at 4:28. Each year racers would continue to improve and re-imagine 100%. Finally in 1954, Roger Banister broke the 4-minute mile by 6-hundreths of a second. The record today is 3:43, a full 45 seconds shorter than it was in 1861 and it will no doubt some day be even shorter.

There is no 100%. This is not just true for physical health. There is no limit to your capacity for learning, loving, laughing or living. Through various exercises and practice you can expand your capacity for compassion just as you can increase your running speed. You can increase your intuition just as you can expand your vocabulary. There is not one characteristic you possess that you can not expand, and none which you lack that you can not acquire through practice and focus.

One of the greatest 100% misconceptions is that of age. It's amazing that a species which knows for a fact it used to live half as long a mere century ago, still assumes it has to age at all. Not only have we convinced ourselves that aging is a part of life, we've managed to take the century of time we perceive as our 100% limit, and break each decade of that experience into pre-conceived notions. Someone in their 40s is suppose to be different somehow than an individual in their 60s. These are all simply mental constructs we've developed in our subconscious that are then acted out by the majority of the population. I have met enough exceptions to the rules however to recognize age is simply a thought. I recently completed work on a website for the famous Maui restaurant Mama's Fish House. This world-famous destination was just named the #2 restaurant in the US by OpenTable, and was started in 1973 by Doris and Floyd Christenson. Floyd and Doris are now in their 80s - but are they tucked away in a retirement home? No - they still go to work each day and actively manage and run the restaurant. And contrary to it's name, this isn't a little "Ma and Pa" shop. With a staff of over 300 and a dining room that is always booked solid, they have their hands full. I worked with a variety of folks on this project, and Floyd was certainly the sharpest of the bunch (and the hardest to impress, which I also respected). Now how am I suppose to reconcile 82 year old Floyd with other seniors I see who seem far too fragile to even order a meal at that restaurant, let alone run it? Does Floyd have unique DNA... perhaps. More than likely its the fact that for the past 40 years he's been driven by a passion to run one the best restaurants in the world. He hasn't had time to worry about aging, he was too busy living.

This past weekend I went snorkeling with two couples. One was in their 40s, the other in their 50s – both super fun and in great shape. In fact, I was probably the weakest link on the snorkeling adventure. It's inspiring to spend time with folks who are just as active and healthy and passionate about life and career as I am, yet 10 to 15 years further along the experience. Having started exercising regularly I can easily say I'm in better shape now than I was two years ago. As this progresses, I will no doubt be in greater shape than I was in my 20s. There is no 100% – and aging is a thought which manifests itself as lazy habits and is rewarded with limitless rest. Stop resting, start living! What are your subconscious limits, your 100%?

In the 16th century there was a Dominican Monk named Giordano Bruno who had a distinctly different view of the universe than was the popular belief at the time. Giordano's vision was that of an infinite universe that had no center – or rather – the center of the universe was wherever the observer happened to be (something we now know to be true, as fantastic as it sounds). This contradicted greatly with the Earth-centered Universe popularized by the church at that time and Giordano was called out as a heretic. To defend his position he proposed the following thought exercise. If indeed the Earth was the center of a finite Universe, then one could certainly make it to the edge of that universe. And once there upon the boundary of the universe, lets say they shot an arrow outward. Would the universe expand, or would the arrow leave the universe? The church's response was to burn Giordano alive at the stake in 1600 – a mere nine years before the invention of the telescope. It's not surprising the church took such action, his thought exercise is a dangerous one, as anyone who puts it to use immediately realizes they exist in an infinite universe. 

Giordano's arrow is a perfect metaphor for breaking the 100% in every aspect of your life. Imagine what is the best you could ever hope to do – imagine working hard and achieving that – and then imagine going a little bit further the next day. You are the manifestation of an infinite universe bound by neither time nor space – why would you assume you have limits? Stand on the boundary of your experience and then take another step.

"The sad fact is that more people are confined by their thoughts than are freed by them. We need only to look around us to see people who are rich emotionally and materially because they think and feel rich. Yet, we see even more people who are laden with emotional and material debt because they think and feel poor. Some are inspired with vision, others are encumbered with doubt. Some are moved by ambition, others feel safer in monotony. Some seek opportunity, some wait fruitlessly for it to knock. Negative habits are capable of locking our imagination, gifts and potential in a jail cell as inescapable as Alcatraz. Your marvelous mind has the same ability and power (even moreso when it’s applied in a positive vibration) to turn the key in that rusty lock that sets you free of your own Alcatraz of habits."

- Bob Proctor

Apr 2015

A wise man once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Or perhaps it was Ferris Bueller... 

Regardless of who said it, the sentiment proves true. Life comes at you pretty quickly and seemingly at an exponentially faster pace the older you get. It's easy to get caught up in the inertia of things, bouncing between work and home, friends and colleagues, errands and appointments, victories and failures. The consequence of all these roles and all these responsibilities is that we rarely have the time to appreciate our successes or properly mourn our losses. Things happen – good or bad – we celebrate or commiserate but then inevitably have to move on. It's the feeling the day after your birthday or trying to make it through a work day when all you can think about is a sick family member. The world doesn't wait – and unless we carve out that time ourselves, we often just keep hurdling through this experience of life from one emotion to another.

Take for example setting goals. I'm a huge proponent of goal lists and constantly trying to set new bars for yourself.  However, there is something funny about goals - each achievement only brings forth a greater goal. Achieving a goal only produces inspiration if you stop to reflect on your progress. For example, I'm working to lose some weight this year. At the moment I am 194 pounds.  This is the lightest I've weighed in years. At the start of this year I was up to 215 pounds, so that means I've lost 20 pounds so far. Do you think I'm sitting here at 194 pounds super psyched about where I'm at.  NO!  I'm thinking how great it will be to break 185 (my 20-somethings weight).  I'm visualizing how insane it will be to go beyond even that as I continue to run and exercise each day. That's the thing with goals - each ring only brings forth a new ring to reach for. The happiness comes from stopping for a moment and reflecting on what you've accomplished. Only in that light can you stay inspired and working towards those new goals.

When negative things come your way, it's equally easy to get consumed by that momentum. A series of unfortunate circumstances can trigger a negative spiral of epic proportions. Suddenly you've got the anti-Midas touch and everything you interact with turns to shit!  We've all been there. Every traffic light is red, every interaction is a confrontation – even the weather seems out to get you. In those moments you can continue to flail through the experiences of life like a bull in a china shop – or you can again take a time out to pause and reflect and let go.

Recently my good friend and business partner found herself in a whirlwind of negativity – her employee quit, her relationship ended... a literal hurricane of negative energy. Most folks would have to attend to these matters within the hours allotted to them between work and the inevitable sleepless nights and then do their best to immediately move on, carrying the mental baggage for months if not years. However, my friend being wiser than most and having the foresight of the freedom that working for herself would someday provide, was able to come out to Maui for a month to stay with yours truly, and reconnect with her true nature, take the time to truly absorb and release the experiences she'd had, regain a focus on how extraordinary this experience and her role in it truly is, and find the inspiration within to reimagine the new life that awaits her.  

It was inspiring to watch this transformation – and it reminded me of my first few months here on Maui. I too had needed a break from the pace of life, and originally escaped here for the winter to reflect and appreciate all the experiences I'd had. Of course, three months have turned into many more now – but taking the time each day to appreciate this experience of life is still the core to living an inspired life. Part of the beauty of Maui is that it slows you down. 

Of course, we can't always take a month off to reconnect with ourselves and become fully inspired – but luckily we don't have to. Just as small, consistent deposits into a savings account is a far greater strategy for growing wealth than hoping for a windfall of cash – taking a short amount of time each day to stay connected is a far better approach to staying inspired than dreaming of a sabbatical in Bali. There are various ways that you could carve out time to stay inspired, but a method that I personally enjoy is called "The Envisioning Method" which was developed by Vishen Lakhiani, the founder and CEO of MindValley.

I first heard of Vishen during a TED Talk in which he discussed Happiness in the workplace. Being quite interested in the concept of "happiness" myself, I read more about his work, the amazing company he created, his AwesomenessFests and more. Vishen is an inspired individual and a great business leader – when you discover someone who has traits that you desire in yourself, it's best to learn what drives them. For Vishen, each day starts off with this Envisioning Method. As he jokes, he'd rather miss breakfast than this morning meditation. The meditation, which takes between 10-20 minutes consists of six phases: Compassion, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Envisioning Your Perfect Life Three Years From Now, Envisioning Your Perfect Day Now, Blessing.

The process takes you through various emotions, connects you with your higher goals and sets you up for an inspired day. Most importantly it gives you the time needed to process the experiences of your life and grow a genuine appreciation for all that you have, all that you have accomplished as well as enthusiasm for all that's to come.

I think back to how many years I rolled out of bed, got dressed, commuted to work, served my time in the office, headed home (or to a bar then home), ate dinner, fell asleep and then did it again. It's easy to forget that life is a gift. It's easy to forget that you won't get to do this forever. It's easy to forget how many blessings you've been given and how much you've accomplished. Stop forgetting... stop ignoring... and take the time to truly appreciate this experience of life. Acknowledge your progress, envision your future, and know what the day will bring you! It's amazing how great a day unfolds when you're already certain of what's coming.  

"Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance."

- Eckhart Tolle

Jan 2015

When I was younger, I realized I was funny. There was a lot of humor in my life growing up – I had parents who love to laugh, I had my Uncle John who had a filing cabinet filled with old photocopies of dirty or obscene jokes – it seems that almost everyone in my family knows how to tell a good yarn. Something I realized over time as I became a funny kid was that it wasn't all too important what I said... and often, those words and jokes were coming faster than I could process them, so I could hardly take much credit for the jokes I stated even if I wanted to. It wasn't the joke itself, or even the presentation that made something entirely funny – it's an energy that exists between the maker of the joke and all those receiving it. It's an emotional connection between two individuals similar to love or anger – invisible and indescribable yet completely unmistakable. I've found babies and small children are nearly always near this state, and thus you can make them laugh without even saying a word – the humor energy just radiates from them. 

Most of our emotions exist in this ethereal energy form. They are not visible entities – microbes that infest us – but rather take the form of feelings and sensations, of actions and unintended consequences. They show up in both the words we say, and the ones we simply think. A co-worker might mention they're "in a bad a mood" in the same way they would mention they have a headcold. Modern medicine in its infinite wisdom has decided to treat both as if they were the same and will happily provide a pill to solve either your runny nose or your sad heart. I'm not so sure about the effectiveness of either, to be honest, but I would say preventative medicine is always your best choice. Welcome to the Pursuit of Happiness!

I happen to believe that "the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most profound statements in all of American history. Thomas Jefferson, in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence states it as such:

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness;

It was later edited to the version we now know, but the assertion is the same – that we have a right to life and liberty, as well as the pursuit of happiness. While it may have been seen as fundamental to the revolution (so much so that it appears in the first sentence of the second paragraph), by the time the Bill of Rights is added to the Constitution, all Americans are guaranteed in the 5th Amendment (and later 14th) is protection of "Life, Liberty and Property."  In fact, the word 'happiness' doesn't appear at all in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. Jefferson's vision was lost.

What I find so profound about Jefferson's words is that they aren't a guarantee to happiness. He is not stating that each of us deserves to be happy – which would be akin to saying everyone deserves to be healthy or athletic. What we have a right to is the pursuit of happiness – the right to find and cultivate that happiness. And not "our own happiness" – but the shared happiness that exists all around us. Your piece of the pie!

Happiness, similar to humor, is a sensation – we may point to a particular cause in any given moment as a "source" of the present happiness we feel, but that's just the mind's constant desire to find dots and connect them. In many cases, happiness is little more than the cessation from the dissatisfaction we so often feel. A temporary respite from suffering as the Buddhists would say. For a primary goal of a Buddhist is to find peace of mind, which is found by detaching oneself from the cycle of craving that produces dukkha - or suffering.

Various philosophies and world religions discuss happiness and offer solutions to finding it. I enjoy reading books that discuss happiness as well as motivation and inspiration, as I find everything works better in life when one is in a consistent state of happiness. It's not enough to only be happy when certain events are happening or certain people are around. The energy that happiness creates can have amazing effects on all aspects of your life if you can cultivate it to exist as an ever present frequency. To do so – I've found there are three primary areas you need to address: Health, Drive and Connection.


While happiness does not come from your body, it interacts immensely with your physical self and specifically your mind. Therefore the most important aspect to cultivating happiness is the health of your physical being and the environment in which you exist. For your body, health would primarily fall into three categories: diet, fitness and sleep. I think we all understand the importance of fitness – countless studies have shown a correlation between exercise and happiness levels. Living here on Maui, there are two types of people I see on the beach every day. There are the fit, healthy individuals, usually with a surf board or like device in hand: they are smiling and radiating a positive energy.  Then there are the unfit, overweight individuals, usually having a tough time making it out of the water or climbing up the sandy hillside: A very different type of energy. Two different groups in the same exact place having wildly different experiences of the day.

Diet is something I've only begun to explore but I have no doubt has a drastic effect on your life and thus your happiness. I've just started a diet challenge called The Whole 30 which cuts out a ton of processed foods, dairy, breads and other grains – basically anything that isn't proven to be 100% good for you. The hardest part will be no alcohol, which cuts into my twice weekly trips to Maui Brewing Company. But I'm hoping after 30 days to notice some improvements, and then can begin to experiment with various "bad" foods to see what effect they truly have on me. In addition, combined with exercise, I'm hoping to lose about 30 pounds. While I'm certainly not horribly out of shape by American standards, I should be 20-30 pounds lighter, and last weekend I carried around a 30 pound weight for about ten minutes to give myself a mental concept of how much extra energy I must be using to lug myself around. Through a combination of eating healthy and daily exercise, I hope to lose those extra pounds – all combining to create increased happiness.

It's hard to overstate how important sleep is to us humans. For the longest time I was a night-owl – up past midnight every evening, yet burning the candle at both ends to be at work early the next morning. It was a combination of coffee to keep me energized and late-night beers to shut things down, all with very little sleep. When I moved to Maui, all that changed. First off, with no social scene, there was nothing to do in the evening. Plus, it gets insanely dark very quickly out here, so my evenings very much shut-down by 7pm. As such, I began to start going to sleep earlier and earlier - first by 11...  now as early as 10 most nights. I wake-up fully refreshed with my batteries charged. Coffee is more of an enjoyable taste than a drug to make me function. A restful night's sleep is a primary ingredient to a happy day.

Finally - there is one type of health that doesn't involve your body and that would be the health of your environment. This would primarily be where you choose to live, but also other areas you frequent such as your place of work and even the community you chose to live in. Your home should be a sanctuary, not a storage locker – a place you desire to be, not just an escape from the world outside. It should be free from clutter and waste. As the old expression goes, "a place for everything and everything in its place." Piles create anxiety, stuff creates want and dirt creates laziness...  how you maintain your home will have a direct effect on how you experience your life. This is the central power station of your happiness recharger... make sure it can accomplish that task. Have multiple places within your home where you can be at peace – little recharging shrines if you will. Places for reading, places for eating, places to rest. If you're looking around your apartment or home and not seeing that – start by grabbing a large garbage bag and getting rid of anything you can't immediately identify as useful. If you can't bare to throw stuff out, then put all those items in a closet for a month or two. Create your space!


The second key elements in the pursuit of happiness is "drive". This is a bit more abstract than health, as drive could mean a lot of things to a lot of different folks. I would describe drive with four primary features: goals, motivation, education and inspiration.

Goals are the guideposts of drive. They steer the ship and point us forward. I recently saw a video of the actor Denzel Washington speaking to a group of young actors. He spoke of this eloquently when he declared, "Dreams without goals remain just dreams. And they ultimately fuel disappointment. Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency." There is a difference between a "dream" and a "goal" and Denzel clarifies this. Goals have tasks assigned to them – and those tasks can only be achieved through disciplined and consistent action. It's not enough to read one book if you want to graduate from college, nor is it enough to exercise one day if you want to get in shape. Discipline and consistency are key to success in any area of our life. To maintain this high level of performance, we often need motivation. We need motivating friends and family, we need motivating circumstances in our life – we need something, somewhere to motivate us to get out of bed in the dark morning, put on those running shoes and head out the door. One of the primary sources of motivation is education, whose bi-product is often inspiration. We only know what we've learned, and sometimes not even that. It's by constantly expanding our understanding of life that we learn new ideas, new approaches and new concepts that inspire us to create new goals to aspire to. 

How does all this play into happiness? The energy one feels when being driven by a purpose larger than themselves, fully motivated to accomplish inspired goals that they themselves have set is unmatched. I have the great pleasure of working for myself. When I get up in the morning I'm not heading out to some job I hate but have to do for a paycheck – UGH – I get the great pleasure of growing my own business, of working to increase my revenue and setting new goals that we then crush each and every day. Last year I had the pleasure of working with the Chicago Stock Exchange to revamp their website. In the process, our designer Sadie created an entirely new logo and brand identify for the exchange. Last week, I was walking along the beach and it hit me that my company – the little business I started out of my apartment a decade ago – had changed the brand for the Chicago Stock Exchange - an over 110 year old institution now has my company's work hanging over its doors and on its business cards. To suggest a wave of happiness rolled over me would be an understatement - more like a tsunami! 


The final source and stimulator of happiness is the connection you have with the world around you. This falls into two categories: relationships and experiences. Relationships are vital to happiness – this includes both family and romantic relationships as well as connections with friends and the community as a whole. It's what typically makes parties so much fun – everyone getting together to cultivate more happiness. It's not that we love the decorations or the free bowling...  it's being together with friends and family that rejuvenates our soul. One of the hardest parts about moving to Maui was not only giving up all the great friendships and relationships I had in Portland, but also not having any of those out here. It has taken time to meet new people, but as these new friendships began to arise out here, it was as welcome as the morning sun. Beyond the tasty beer, one of the main reasons I like going to a pub is just chatting it up with whomever happens to be sitting next to me. This is also true for travel, where you not only get to explore new places that inspire and educate, but you also meet new people and get to make connections with folks you haven't met previously. One doesn't need to be family or a loved one to engage in a meaningful and happiness generating conversation. 

In addition to the connections you make with people there is also the connection you have with source. Some might call this God or the universe – I prefer source or to simply leave it nameless, which is probably most appropriate as this connection most often is discovered in silence. This is the "time out" you take each day to escape the illusion of the present state, and enter into the sacred infinite truth that is the present moment. Whether this be a long walk, a hike through the woods, sitting on a beach or meditating in a special place in your home – taking time to do nothing and simply be is a surefire way to regenerate happiness. Often if you can spend 5 to 10 minutes in silence, either watching the sunset or simply being in a room – you arise from this space with a completely refreshed feeling as if a lot of the imagined pressures of life have been removed. In carving out this ease – in unloading this imagined burden, you create space for more happiness. 

For in the end, happiness is not a deviation but rather the natural state of how we should be. We needn't create happiness to experience it, just as we needn't create oxygen to breath it. Respiration is only tripped up when we hold our breath or something outside of us prevents our breathing. In the same way, happiness is only restricted when we clog our minds or find ourselves in uninspired environments. The pursuit of happiness isn't so much a quest for secret treasure – it's remembering the combination to the safe you already possess. 

"Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits."

- Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia"

Jan 2015

I wasn't going to make a New Year's resolution this year. Anyone who follows this blog regularly knows I'm pretty obsessed with planning my life, and constantly setting goals – and so rather than declare the New Year as some type of starting line of a new race, I was generally going to ignore the whole thing and just keep pushing myself as I have been.

That was until I got home on New Year's Eve around 7pm here in Maui. It was just before midnight in New York City, a place I consider to be the capital of the world, and the one true timezone to rule them all. As is my habit, I opened up a new tab on my web browser and almost without thinking, typed in "cnn.com". There on the homepage of CNN in it's almost cliche "this is important" 72pt font was the headline "35 Killed In New Year's Celebration". Seeing as the headline was in an unbelievably large font, I was very concerned, and as I had been thinking about New York's celebration I connected those dots. I immediately clicked on the headline, and discovered it was in Shanghai China. Someone had released numerous coupons that apparently looked like dollar bills, and in the mayhem that enveloped the large crowd, 35 individuals were killed and dozens more were injured. It's quite possible that this was indeed the worst thing that happened on New Year's Eve. But did I really need to know about it? Was there anything I could do... any insights I could draw from it... lessons to be learned? No. It was just pain and misery packaged for consumption.

Here an entire planet had celebrated the New Year – from Asia to Europe, from New York to California, from Rio to Moscow the world had rejoiced in celebration and good will. Millions of folks danced, sang, drank, shot-off fireworks, feasted in celebration, but the good folks at CNN had looked long and hard for what was the worst thing out there - and that was the main story and focus of their site for the evening.

It was at that moment that I declared my New Year's Resolution: I would stop reading and watching the news in 2015!

I realize this might seem like a drastic step, but it's something that has been growing on me for some time now. First off, I have a really bad habit of getting easily distracted while working by opening up news webpages like cnn.com, politico.com, huffingtonpost.com... even foxnews.com, bbc.co.uk and beyond. It's usually a subconscious action... a pause in my programming lets my mind break free momentarily, and without so much as a thought I've pressed "CTRL+TAB" on my keyboard, started typing in the first few letters of whatever news site I've suddenly had a craving for, and faster than I can even realize I've changed gears, I'm now scouring over headlines to find distraction. The habit is so pervasive in fact that I've actually found myself opening a new tab and loading up CNN while I'm actually on CNN reading something else. That's right, my brain says "this is boring... you should do... well, what you're doing." Sometimes I will look across the 8 or 9 tabs open in my web browser and there will be 2 or 3 "news" tabs open... tiny breaks throughout the morning in which I got distracted, but then made it back.

If it was just a mindless distraction, such a habit wouldn't be too dangerous. I put in enough work hours that taking a few minutes every hour or so to look at something else would probably be healthy - if what I was looking at was educational, informative or inspiring in some fashion (which, many of the blogs I choose to go to accomplish these goals). Unfortunately, mainstream news is none of those things. It is sensational, shallow and a perversion of the reality that is actually going on. Headlines are written not to provide clarity to the content, but encourage click-throughs - ranging from slightly misleading to down-right false statements that one doesn't discover their falseness until nearly the end of the article when they clarify what truly happened (if they do at all). In October for example, CNN had the headline "Ebola In The Air? A Nightmare That Could Happen."  Sounds pretty terrifying, especially with the handful of ebola cases in the US that were occurring at the time. However, when you read the article, the scientific consensus is unanimous that this is unlikely to happen, and that Ebola will continue to be transferred through contact with bodily fluids. It's as if someone is coming up with horrible scenarios in the form of headlines at CNN, and writers are having to work with what they have to disprove them.

What follows the article on almost all the mainstream news websites is a comments section which is one part "Jerry Springer Show", and another part Case Study on the lack of education and common decency in the global populace. I worked hard to stop myself from reading comments earlier this year, but still find my eyes drifting down there, especially when I can tell an article has the potential to be controversial (an almost universal characteristic of modern journalism). 

I studied journalism in college - it's technically what my degree is in. I helped start up my high school newspaper and have always been an avid reader of the "news". That relationship began to shift in the early 2000's when I saw how the mainstream media's post-9/11 coverage sensationalized our need for war, placated the glaringly false claims the Bush administration was making at the time, and blatantly ignored the size and scope of the anti-war movement. I remember weekends with protests of tens of thousands of citizens in every major city in America and beyond that wouldn't even get a minute of news coverage. Or worse, shared coverage with "Pro-war" groups marching in "support of the troops". Somehow the media saw 20 folks standing on a corner waving American flags as on par with 10,000 or more folks marching against the war. CNN, Fox News and the other mainstream 24-hour news channels had an endless parade of military spokespeople all spewing "facts" that have since been proven false. How Fox News can invite Oliver North to discuss middle-eastern foreign policy and pretend he is neutral, while all the while ignoring the fact that he's a convicted traitor to the US who himself was directly involved with illegal weapon sales and various other shady dealings in that very part of the world is amazing. They were certainly not alone. Recent revelations about the CIA torture programs has revealed that the CIA actively placed false information (otherwise known as lies) in various media outlets. Between former disgraced military vets, CIA covert ops and a general lack of journalistic integrity, it's really hard to call CNN, Fox News and other outlets "news" at all - they are simply propaganda machines.

When the mainstream media isn't misinforming us about foreign powers and the cost of war, their other favorite topic of choice is personal tragedy. This includes everything from family issues, local shootings, teenagers fighting, runaway brides, online bullies, racist/sexist/homophobic comments from random employers, freak accidents in which children die, celebrities with addiction issues, or any other story that can somehow be connected to their primary "conflict themes" – gun rights, abortion, homosexuality, race or violence. Earlier this week a woman was shot by her two year old in a Walmart. You can almost hear the sirens going off at CNN as they rejoice over such a small-town tragedy. Within minutes I'm sure they had Anderson Cooper flying out to some little town he's never heard of to interview a random neighbor to provide more insight on a personal tragedy that has almost no implications on a national level - but if exploited correctly can fill up their website and air time for a week.

So it's clear that the "news" isn't something I need in my life. If I wish for some reason to learn about what's happening in the world without experiencing it myself, there are superior resources available. My habit has very little to with being informed, and more to do with the anxiety of wanting to know "what is going on" that the media itself seems to instill. The internet by its very nature seems to create a desire to know what is happening "right now" at all times. However - if you want to know what is happening "right now", your best choice is to turn off the computer and walk outside, not visit CNN. Because what is happening is what you're experiencing. You decide what is happening - not the "news". If you choose to read the news, then what is happening is that you're discovering how horrible life can be. How miserable some people are to each other, and how desperate times seem to many. If you stand up and walk outside, you'll discover none of that is true. Or at least, hopefully, it's not true for you. Nobody is robbing me, nobody is pointing a gun at me, nobody is rioting on my street, nobody is dying at this very moment. In fact, it's a beautiful day, my neighbor is out sweeping his porch, the birds are singing... things are perfect.

So how have I started the process of cleansing myself from "news". Well, luckily I got rid of cable several months ago, so I don't have to worry about finding it on my TV. For my web browser, I just downloaded a plugin called "Block Site" that lets me provide redirects to any websites I want. So now when I try to go to cnn.com, I get pointed to google.com. At first I had all my news sites redirect to art blogs – but I found while that cleared out the "news", it still was letting me get distracted, and so in an effort to solve both issues, I've chosen google.com as it has almost zero content - just a search bar.

It has been an interesting experiment thus far. As all the news sites open Google, it's been a wake-up call to me just how often I subconsciously make that effort – as I'm opening up Google numerous times a day. I sorta laugh when I think to myself "why did I go to Google.... oh yah, I was trying to go to Huffington Post." I have no doubt over the next week or two as my mind realizes it can no longer get its anxiety fix, the habit of opening those tabs will fade. If for some reason I feel I need the news, I can obviously open a different browser and find it – I'm not trying to cut myself off from the world – but hopefully this is the first step in making sure I redirect my energies towards the positive this year, and stop wasting so much time thinking about horrible things which are way beyond my reality.

2015 is all about the pursuit of Happiness. Each of my goals and actions are geared towards this defining principle. How can I focus my energy and time on activities that cultivate this happiness and grow my appreciation for life. Clearing out negative energies and practices is the trailhead of this path. Removing a for-profit "news" system focused on all that is wrong in the world is just a first step – but an important one. Until the mainstream media decides to start reporting on all the good and potential that exists, I have no need to watch. I've had enough of what they sell for now.

"Focusing exclusively on sensory data creates a world of appearances, which are ultimately illusions. Since everything comes and goes, the nature of the material world is obviously restricted to transitory status. When our eyes see only the colors before them, they're destined to become blind to what lies beyond the world of appearances. We can not know the creator if we're focused exclusively on what's been created."

- Wayne Dyer, "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life"

© 2007-2014 Gregory Spies / Modern Workweek. Made On Maui.