Ideas

I was clenching my teeth again. I know when I’ve been doing it because I’ll yawn and my jaw will go POP! If that’s too much information for a first sentence I’ll just give you the gist of what this is all about now: I stumbled upon one of those little mental tricks, or hacks, that’s helped me find some extra balance. I’m going to tell you what it is.

But first let me ask: Do you ever put everything you have to do and everything you want to do on a mental carousel and get dizzy watching it go round and round? I just realized while writing this that people only get dizzy watching a carousel spin, not riding one.

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A friend of mine went home sick from work last week with a fever. Things got worse and he went to the emergency room. The doctor had worked in the ER for 20 years and told him he’d never seen anything like this. They both panicked.

The doctor said it might be Sepia, an autoimmune disease that kills a million people per year within hours of being diagnosed. They ran tests. Nothing. My friend sat all alone in the hospital all night wondering if he would ever see the morning.

But he did. The tests came back negative (at hospitals negative test results are actually a positive. I hate hospitals.) The next day was the best day of his life. He woke up and felt lucky to go to work. All the worries that plagued him a few days before had vanished.

It’s funny how that works. How, it takes something horrible to happen to make us realize just how great we have it The majority of lottery winners end up worse off financially than they were before and say how it ruined their lives. Yet, cancer survivors tap into deeper meanings of life and say, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

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A mentor once told me, “Your twenties are for learning. Your thirties are for taking action.” It’s funny I remember that now, the day I turn 30 years old.

I’ve spent some time thinking about what it means to reach this age. So far, it’s been a humbling reminder of how long and short life really is. I’m lucky to have made it this far, yet there’s still so much ahead. When we reach a “milestone birthday” there’s only so much time for reflection before we have to ask, “What do I want the next 5, 10, or even 30 years to look like?”

Throughout my twenties, I made it a habit to write down any quotes or pieces of advice I came across that seemed valuable. Going through those notes now, I’m shocked at how many great pieces of wisdom I’ve collected. Certain pieces I wrote down years ago, but am just now beginning to understand. There are others I wish someone had told me when I turned twenty.

One of my favorite books is Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. Besides its overwhelming amount of straightforward wisdom, I love the idea that the Emperor of Rome (the most powerful man on Earth back then) sat down each night and wrote advice to himself on how to be a good person.

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When we look at our work, our art, or any value we’re adding to the world, at some point, we have to ask, “Would they miss me if was gone?”

This isn’t a life or death hypothetical. “They” can be customers, “me” can be a product. But regardless of what type of creative space we’re in, we need to know where we stand with our audience.

Ask yourself: “Who’s looking forward to what I do next?” Put another way: “Do I matter or am I being tolerated?”

Because of all the metrics we use to measure success—how much we matter is the most important.

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I went into a vintage clothing store and pulled an old blue, Levi’s jean jacket off the rack. It felt sturdy—like it’s seen some shit. I could tell it had spent a lot of time in the backseat of classic cars and at the frontlines of Vietnam protests. At least that’s the history I projected onto to it.

C.C.R was playing in the store and the clerk gave me one of those slight nods that said, “lemme know if you need anything.” He was twisting wax into his mustache and wore a top hat and suspenders. I wondered how a guy dressed as an evil train conductor from the 1800’s could still look cooler than I ever have in my life.

I put on the jacket and looked in the mirror. I could see myself wearing it out in the desert somewhere, leaning against an old Ford mustang—bad moon on the rise. I don’t know why I was in the desert or whose car it was, but I had already picked out the perfect Instagram filter for me and my new jackets life together.

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