How to Achieve Life Fulfillment with Ten Simple Steps and a One Time Only Fee of $9.99

Ten Steps to Fewer Steps

Ever wondered how to put less effort into everything you do?

Follow these Ten Simple Steps to reduce the steps you take in your life by up to 50%. Once you’ve read through these ten simple steps, you will be THREE steps closer to living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Confused? Don’t be. There is no time like now to start over.

Step #1: Set a low bar.

People may encourage you to set a high bar. They (bosses, mothers, distant relatives) may even demand such. What I’m suggesting is that you advocate for the exact opposite. Tell everyone you know that you refuse to surrender to their societal norms, and introduce them to the low bar that is your new normal. While they may appear puzzled at first, you will convince them by being unwaveringly consistent. Insist that they accept your poor taste and subpar standards. Before long, they will come around to the idea that a low bar is, in fact, better than no bar at all.

Step #2: Do more with less.

Ever come across scintillating snapshots of people having what appears to be so much fun? If you’ve ever come across such photos and thought to yourself “If only this could be me!” I challenge you to think again. Why? Because the pictures are entirely contrived. How do I know? Simple.  According to highly reputable studies, “No one does anything worthwhile anymore. Ever.” (True Story, 2015). Remind yourself that anything resembling cool is actually a superficial sort of construction, staged merely to stroke someone’s swaggering, social media-reinforced ego. When you find yourself bemoaning your unremarkable existence, remind yourself that at least your mediocrity is authentic. You are the average real deal.

Step #3: Downsize, two steps at a time.

The final trick to succeeding in life with fewer steps is to downsize your belongings. In this step, I’m suggesting you go above and beyond your seasonal spring-clean. With step #3, I’m asking that you take everything you own, and place it into a pile in the center of your living room (office/bedroom will also suffice). Once your belongings are assembled, begin removing things from the pile, one at a time, until you are left with only three things. Use these three things to help guide you in figuring out life steps 4-10.

Now, wondering what to do with the rest of your things? If unbroken and/or tolerably useable, consider donating the remainder of your items to your neighbor (or any person who has not yet gotten a hold of these simple life steps). At this point, it’s likely that such a person still believes that things-big, small, shiny and dull-are the key to happiness. Exploit this person’s knowledge deficit by gifting him/her your “treasures” (read: junk), pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath. You have started anew.

UP NEXT: For a small, one-time payment of $4.99, you can gain immediate online access to my new book, “Five Ways To Become Rich and Skinny Overnight By Eating Only Cookie Dough Scented Scones.”

 

 

Just Another Fork In The Road

 

Two paths diverged in the woods. Luckily, I showed up early, and was able to walk down both. 

 

Finding Your Path 

 

Each day, we blindly follow through with familiar routines. We approach daily tasks and chores with an unquestioned obedience. We, the programmed collective, do as we’re told; all the more often, we simply do as we know.

We repeat familiar tasks tirelessly, and lay our heads down on fresh pillows after exhausting days. It’s only when we uproot ourselves from such familiar scenes that we discover life’s alternatives. That other ways of living are not only possible, but also plentiful.

The question is, where do you start? How do you even begin the process of choosing which kind of life you want to live? What kind of person you want to be? With any number of options available, the process of narrowing them down can feel overwhelming. But have no fear: you got this.

You start by making mistakes. You pursue your passions with a reckless obsession, and you don’t give up until you’ve failed. Twice. Maybe even a few times. You become a master of your own universe, and you begin each day by staring yourself in the mirror, proclaiming, “I’m a superstar!And you remind yourself that it’s not just your mom who thinks so.

You spend sufficient time learning what doesn’t work for you-what feels forced, unnatural, or coerced- and you cross those things/people/places/jobs off the list. You trust in your gut, and your gut guides you.

Over time, you begin to develop a groove. You find yourself naturally drifting in a particular direction, signaling that your focus is being born. Sometimes, the current of mental adjustment is slow, causing what can feel like a meandering way forward. Other times, though, the current pulls you hard and fast in a specific direction. If this pull is consistent and strong, allow yourself to surrender to its pulls. This is your instinct guiding you in the right direction for you.

 

The Power of Choice

When one is still, one may think.

 Not even on vacation do we allow our minds to sit still. To catch up with the current moment, and take in the now. With next steps and future plans lingering overhead, we dilute the quality of the present with anticipation over that which remains to be seen.

We live in a society whereby the legal system is designed to protect us from ourselves, and school teaches us to unlearn. We are uninspired by traditional curriculum, yet we remain sponges to/of the system. We remember to memorize, but forget to create.

As we get older, we shift nearer to the center. What feels like a gravitational pull is really just the status quo, graciously leaving its doors open for the predictable and bored to stroll right through, sit down, and stay awhile.

Like a 24/7 gas station, the convenience is quite something. The set-up is perfect, with brightly lit lights, an abundant supply of drinkable tap water, and every kind of snack you can imagine to power you through your decidedly dreary days.

Despite the gloominess, we continue to cement ourselves to this kind of life. We do what we’re told, and pursue careers that seem impressive (or make us sound smart), but are devoid of meaning. Our titles are significant, but our person is not.

It’s a cycle many of us are familiar with. We tell ourselves it could be worse, so we keep on pushing through. We’re entertained during miserable workdays by instant messaging with friends, or checking and refreshing news feeds. We live vicariously through the online other.

Our behavior is not scripted, although it often feels so. Depending on our actions, we’re able to liberate or confine. We make choices constantly, each minute of the day. The majority of these are negligible, and we worry not in considering whether that decision might impact our future.

The more serious choices require our undivided attention.  These big and bad ones have the power to determine the course of our lives. Or so we’d like to think. We sweat over these, and are kept awake at night by the unknowing.  We cling desperately to the illusion that such things are black and white, and consequently ask ourselves, “Which choice is the right one?”

Distrusting of our own selves, we refuse to face these decisions alone. We consult the help of others-friends, family, and the occasional stranger. Some of us may even seek guidance from a professional, a Certified Decision-Maker.

We must remember that as life is dynamic, so are we. Merely mortals, we’re intimately acquainted with both mistake and error. What seemed like a good idea at the time may prove horribly wrong. Plans can backfire, and your entire life’s road map could be forcibly rewritten. What then?

Pieces are amiss, but all is not lost. We must learn to discover our own resilience. Believe in individual successes as much as personal failings. If we allow ourselves to forgive one “wrong” road traveled, we might feel permitted to try again.  Perhaps this time down a road less conspicuous, and filled with greater reward.

The road is everything and anything. It’s a series of unsuccessful jobs, or a stable, life-long career. It’s a failed marriage, or a reunion with an old flame. It’s the question of to do, or not to do. To be, or not to be.

Our society discourages taking risks, and this is a grave mistake. Whether we choose to pursue a conventional life or not is irrelevant. What matters is the intention behind our choices, and whether or not our life carries meaning and purpose.

Be curious, intentional, forgiving and flawed. In doing so, life will pleasantly surprise.

Twenty-Something and Counting

Twenty-seven years old. What do I have to show for myself?

I’ve past the quarter century mark. Survived the illusory quarter-life crisis by pretending I didn’t have one. Note: I did. I’ve become more expressive. When given the choice, I opt for enthusiastic words over exclamation points. “I’ve matured in profound ways,” says my ego on a good day.

I find myself in awe of the last seven years. What a wild ride it’s been. My life narrative feels non-linear, but maybe that’s because my head’s still stuck in the clouds. Epic gains, monumental losses, stagnant lulls, chapters of triumph, pages of blunder, and a cacophony of related melodrama. Hot damn. Who’s navigating this ship?

I appreciate twenty year old me. I’m sure she was nice and had interesting things to say on uninteresting occasions. But ultimately, I’m glad I’m no longer her. The last several years have taught me some important things. You, too? No kidding.

I’ve developed a stronger identity. I voice opinions with greater conviction and lesser apology. With each day, I grow fonder of my strangeness. I am no longer freaked out by my quirks. In fact, I’m starting to find them pardonable. On some days, they’re downright cute.

I’m learning to be as understanding of myself as I am of others. I’ve taken classes in street smarts, and I’m a certified, aspiring intellectual. I’ve fallen in love with communication. Verbal, non-verbal, visual. Whatever you fancy, I’m all ears and eyes.

I’m a goddamn superstar. No, not true. I’m actually just a jokester.

Strictly speaking, I don’t find the human exterior all that compelling.  It’s the inner sanctum (noun: a sacred space) that really gets to me. Only through this raw under-layer can real meaning be found. Which reminds me: Don’t fear what’s deep. If you must, fear what’s real.

After nearly a decade of twenty-something confusions and convulsions, my quest for knowledge remains intact. It’s fully, wholly insatiable. The way in which I acquire insight, though, has changed. I no longer obsess over the road less travelled. I approach the ordinary with solace, rather than contempt. I’m also more scrupulous with syntax.

Before I shut down this grandiloquent ramble, I would like to conclude with a thought. Choice. If my twenties have taught me anything, it’s that it’s okay to choose. The idea that “anything is possible” can be inspiring, and I would argue that young people should pay homage to this ideal while their minds are still fresh and malleable. But after a bit of soul-searching and mental meandering, the appropriate course of action is simple: act. Waiting in limbo on the periphery of the world will inevitably disappoint. Do you see a path? Take it. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you for passing along this article. It made me want to write. 

The Wisdom of Hindsight & Other Wise Things

I used to think 20-20 meant perfect vision. That is, until I discovered hindsight.

Equipped with a clear and sharp focus, hindsight is the wisest, and most evolved of all the visionary senses. With a microscopic accuracy, it detects flaws and understands nuance in a complicated and honest way. It notices, with tremendous sincerity, how the finer details contributed to the larger whole. Hindsight paves the way for thorough inspection, and allows for an opportunity to reflect. This type of reflection-which can be all powerful, and a deliverer of harsh truths- is made possible through a lapse in time and established physical space. Combined, these elements help to bring about complete (or in less “successful” processes, partial) mental clarity.

If you knew now, what you knew then, would you have done things differently? A realist might scoff at the question, dismissing it as trivial, and useless in application. But, if we allow ourselves to indulge in a bit of existential thought, could it be a mistake to dismiss the past as the past, simply because it’s behind us?

What if a focus on the past is precisely what’s needed to process the present? To live purposefully, and with intention, one must know what came before today. Today is merely the product of a thousand yesterday’s, and while the past can’t be rewritten, per se, delving into the deep end of our former selves could be valuable. In fact, I suggest that in doing so, one could bring forth the greatest transformation the mind has ever known.

So, what exactly would take place? Well, beats me. I can’t answer that question any more than you can. But, since I’ve never been one to pass up a brainstorm, I’m down to wage some guesses.

A type of meta-understanding might occur. Our acquaintance with the past would seamlessly coincide with our present familiarity, which would provide us with the most holistic, comprehensive, assessment of our selves. This assessment-unbiased by the constraints of time, and unaffected by place/space –would spark the transformation of our better selves.

Now, I don’t believe we should revert to our old ways, and spend too much time thinking of what once was. This is just food for thought. So, you know…chew on it.

NYC vs. ME

You want to know what my beef is? My beef is this:

It’s the L train. It’s the packed hipster masses. It’s the crowds. It’s not a hop in my step, it’s a limp. It’s never walking in a straight line. It’s like one big perpetual zig-zag. A careful crisscross of everyday obstructions. Of scaffolding, new and old. Of people, new and old. Of heels and luggage and cones and pot holes and grates and strollers and shopping bags and wheelchairs. It’s a cough on the train followed by a nose wipe and a snotty hand placed on the railing above. It’s an elbow in your face and a knee in your ass. It’s a conglomeration-a herd of cattle-that amasses at the bottom of the Union Square stairwell and ascends, step by step, in a disheveled but collective unison. 

It’s every man for himself. Except if an elderly, disabled or pregnant person is nearby. In such instances, everyone’s on their best behavior. But when those folks aren’t present, shit can get crazy. Everything and everyone is fair game. Feisty aggressors become pushers and shovers. These people are not assholes. Nope, not in this bio-dome. These people are fittest, and as such, will survive the beast that harbors us. The meek, though…the meek get nowhere. These guys are swallowed up whole by the pushers, and left to rot. Or forced to fall behind and, consequently, arrive tardy to their brunch date.

It’s the demanding, hyperactive surge of the senses. Where your mind and body are always alert, and perpetually on. But actually, it’s the contradictions which cause me the greatest unease. Like the queue of impatient, expensive spandex-clad whom wait outside their local, donation-based yoga studio. Or the parade of homeless adults, picnicking in the park with beer. With so much grandness, and so much contradiction, it’s no wonder the city makes me feel totally, wholeheartedly, insane. 

It’s a city where not everyone is rude. In fact, many people are quite nice! The problem lies in the size. It’s a number’s game, and there’s too many goddamned people on too small a fucking island.

A guy asked me on the subway why I was talking to myself. He found it “weird.” I told him that I found his scarf made of cat weird, but hadn’t thought to tell him so. He continued to press me on the issue and finally I relented. “You want to know why I talk to myself?”

“You see” I say, calmly, to Guy and his boisterous shadow, “I talk to myself because I fear that if I talk to others, to the masses, my words will not form. The timidity, which presupposes all consonants, will suffocate under the weight of each impending vowel. Unsurprisingly, it will be this very act that culminates in one fantastic vocal forfeit. Unsure of my own voice, and distrusting of my own vernacular, I’ll become capable of only garble. Intelligible by none other than babies, themselves.”

He looked at me, face void of expression but eyes filled with light. “Interesting,” he says, tears forming beneath his eyelids. 

Guy isn’t the only one who finds me…how do I put this? A little off. 

A friend of mine questions why I videotape myself all the time. He mistakenly assumes that the creativity behind each video is a result of the city’s inspiration  And honestly, he’s wrong. I want to tell him that I think he misunderstands. That my inspiration for ‘home video’ derives not from the city and its fantastic claims at fueling curiosity. In fact, hell no! These cinematographic performances are merely naked depictions of my wit’s end.

Rather than punish the city for its constant torment, I have chosen to fight back with an even greater malice. The videos, in their own way, are attempts to sequester what would otherwise be an impulsive and violent reaction. They’re my very own way of saying, “Hey, New York! Go fuck yourself!”

The Future Unknown

Who doesn’t want to be given all the answers? With guess work removed, I would waste not a moment speculating. Hypothesizing. Presuming that things are a way when in fact, the way is not.

I could be certain that the past-lying behind me and refusing to repeat itself-was over, and that the future-ahead in the foreground, conscious of its own allusiveness- was a mystery no longer. Questions would be nothing more than moot points, entertained for brief moments before being stifled by the seductiveness of gratification, immediate. Debates and “mulling things over” would grow extinct. Doubt would disappear. There would be no room for mistake, as direction would be clear, articulate, and expected .

I think about what it would be like, in my own life, to know it all. To be fluent in future outcomes, and intimately acquainted with the characters and settings which would accompany my later life. I find that I chase notions of the unknown with a blind desperation, obsessed with discovering that which I’m presently unable to discern. This quest is not so much reflective of my Age of Innocence as it is a guilty, self-centered attempt at control. Note: This quest-today, tomorrow and always- will forever be futile. That acknowledgement, however, is not sufficient to placate, altogether, The Pursuit.

I need to meditate on the now. Soak up the senses and speak in the present. I try to do this- I want to be currently content- but as ‘they’ say, it’s ‘easier said than done’. I’m future focused, and future obsessed. Is my future forecast fucked? No, no, it’s simply…murky.

To consider only the here and now feels dishonest. To avoid and ignore that which lays just around the corner-so near! so imminent!-seems like an improper allocation of mental resources. How can I sit still, literally, and not allow my mind to wander? The short answer is that it would be hard. Really hard. The long answer is too long to delve into here, or now, which leads to me my concluding point:

When the future hovers but far away,
The mind may drift and slowly stray,
Do not be scared, for as they say,
When life is good, we’re all okay.

New York City: Subway Talk

One hand clutches the rail above me, and the other balances the book in my palm. I’m in need of a page turner. But who?  Others around me are similarly preoccupied. You can’t ask the woman carrying a tray of coffees to help you with your zipper, nor can you ask the guy carrying two children to turn your page. Such logic is what makes the world go round.

For one whole stop, I have to wait. Book suspended in mid-air, the character’s lives and central plot are put on hold. How desperate I am to see what happens next! Waiting in still, but furious, silence, I finally reach The Breaking Point. The Point where I disregard the train’s inertia (which would likely, ultimately, lead to my great fall), and focus only on stability through narrative concentration. I relinquish my left hand from the rail above me and place it firmly, stoically, next to my right. Now, with both hands on the book, I turn the page quickly, intent on not disturbing my read for fear of  future consequence.

Page 103 has almost turned into page 104 when suddenly, unpredictably, indignantly, the train screeches to a halt. Purses migrate from shoulder to elbow and rail-gripping arms jostle about. Most on board the train suffer these movements, just barely, relatively unscathed by the abrupt absence of motion. Myself and a few others, however, are notably afflicted. We-the loose, free-spirited, free-standing collective-display a stance no longer stoic. We’ve tumbled and rumbled to the floor, elbowing rib cages the entire way down. I look all around me, only feet. Pointed heels and hip, shiny kicks and just-polished men’s dress shoes cloud my vision and senses.

Heat rises but smell does not. The ground reeks more than the city’s rankest, and within seconds of making shoe contact, I’m scrambling to get up. Complicated, this process becomes, as my free-standing section is available no longer. My body begins by unfolding, politely at first, which proves ineffective. I have no choice but to be aggressive, I decide, so I shoot straight up, springing off my heels like a ball on a court. En route, I knock coffee out of cups and babies out of arms, but I don’t care. I’m standing, I’m holding on, I’m up.

“Hey, what the fuck?” the guy next to me yells. “Yeah, what do you think you’re doing?” shouts the woman whose toe is directly beneath mine.

I ignore their shouts, their insults, and their pleas. I open back up to page 104 and resume concentration. The castle is about to be burned down and due to an operation of sorts, Princess Lisa is no longer a Princess, but a Prince! and the sky is raining dragons. Fiction and fantasy take precedence, now and always, over shit-smelling, over-crowded subway mobs.

Propensity Towards Mobility

ImageI write and I dream. I start writing about what once was and, immediately, my mind drifts to another place altogether. I get lost in my thoughts. Thoughts that are an imperfect mix of reality and fantasy. Of fact and fiction. I live by these stories. Tales that allow me to escape the present-the chair that I’m sitting on, the computer I type on, the walls that surround me- and meander into another existence, of three-legged unicorns, of crisp mountain air, of Japanese speaking house plants.

I travel, too, to distort my perception of what’s real. To remind myself that there are no rules to the game of life except for the ones we, ourselves, choose to write.I escape to live vicariously through my own parallel universe. To feel simultaneously lost, and found. A game, familiar, only in the sense that I recognize some of the pieces. The strategy, though, I’ve never fully understood. Which is precisely what keeps me playing. What allows me to take out the board, yet again, and relearn the characters, the pieces and the premise.

I’m headed out early tomorrow morning for a flight to Nicaragua. I’m not sure exactly what to expect, but I’ve been promised one hell of an experience and, well…I’m not gonna pass up one one of them. I’ll try to write a story while I’m gone, as well as learn Spanish. If all goes exceedingly well, I’ll write the story in Spanish.

Hasta la próxima!

Why We Should All Just Farm (Or Ride on Trains)

Work the land or be distracted by it.

Hitch a ride back in time to an agrarian society. Pay a visit to your local horticulturalist. Learn a thing or two about seeds, and then plant some. Enter through the ignorant door and exit through the wise(r) one. Feel tired. Experience physical exhaustion and roughen up your hands. Grow a callous, or perhaps even four. Strap on some boots and spend an extra ten minutes in the shower everyday scouring off mud. Watch tufts of grass and specks of dirt rinse off your body and into the drain below. Temporarily clog the drain with mud and then unclog it (because you’re now a Ms. Fix-It, oh yes you are).

That’s one option…

Another option would be to move to a place and work a job that is so-so, or maybe even better than that, but so-so would do because this place is cool. This place-this city-has an off the hook social potential. An eleven on a ten scale, it’s a place bursting with energy and distractions and weirdos. God, how you’ve missed weirdos! Ride the subway at rush hour and tuck yourself firmly in between your local freak-show and Wall Street Guy. (Not the Occupy kind, the real deal.) Consider the idea that you’re the bridge between these two worlds. His and hers. Then laugh at yourself as you realize that you don’t know any more about either of these people than they do about you. (Though if they took one guess: middle class, average, white, 20-something girl just trying to find herself in the world…well, they might be on to something.)

Get lost in the lights and in the constant noise. Sound that drives you crazy, but in the occasionally good way. Like the good kind of crazy high you get listening to a solid-I mean solid– subway performance. Guys on drums on tin cans and girls on vocals on beat box. That kind of noise-free, uninterrupted, rhythmical chaos-is the best kind, and those are beats you’d happily sleep/never sleep to. The other noise, though, fuck. Enough of that! Enough of the horns and the sirens and the people on cell phones and the people on themselves. Get over your fucking selves, people. And get off your cell phone for one fucking second. Seriously, I dare you.

It’s no wonder the place drives me mad. (Oh, and to be clear, the place in mind is New York City, or as New Yorkers call it: The City, or The Best Place-And Only Place-In The World.) If you’re not mad when you arrive, you’re batshitcrazy when you leave. It’s a place that offers no apologies, not unless you’re more well than well-off and you live on the Upper East Side and have a gate around your apartment building and an obedient man awaiting you at the elevator door. Not unless you’re in that kind of place do you ever receive a condolences card. ‘Sorry about all of that, Mr. Donovan. I deeply regret Brooklyn and the L train for even existing, and the homeless guy who coughed in your direction and didn’t even consider covering his mouth and, of course, the Bronx. Don’t even get me started on the Bronx… For those things and more, I’m truly sorry. Oh, and here’s your mail, Sir. Have a lovely evening.’  

Oops, looks like I’ve debarked at Tangent Road.

The not so poignant point is that we can’t have it all, can we? Having it all means taking the good with the bad and this can be really confusing. Sometimes, the same thing that was once good and positively scrumptious becomes the same bad thing that leaves a terrible aftertaste in your mouth. So true.

You are just one person living amongst/between/below/on top of multiple worlds. If you don’t know an answer, follow your gut. And if you can’t find your gut, have no fear…it will find you.