First, listen

To understand, it is important to listen. To actively engage in your perceptive abilities. Not just hear, but be willing to accept the message.

The Sufi poet and mystic Rumi phrased it this way: “Let this window be your ear. I have lost consciousness many times with longing for your listening silence, and your life-quickening smile.”

Rumi here speaks to a lover, listing five things he must say. Of the five, only the first two really appear applicable, but that is one of the beauties of Rumi – deceptiveness that leads to truth.

If you only read the surface – and not fully accept the message – you miss out on the truth.

This is as important, or more so, when dealing with people as it is when reading poetic Sufism.

Gotta run

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Make better choices

Most of our days are segments into small chunks of choices. To wake up with the alarm or to hit snooze. To have coffee or tea. Eat breakfast or don’t. Healthy or sugary. A morning workout, or prayer, or meditation.

Not even ten minutes into the day, and already a dozen or more choices assail pout mental processors.

If we consider the ability to make decisions as a commodity – a resource that is finite within the scope of one twenty-four hour period – then it makes sense to spend our decision-making currency os frugally and responsibly as possible.

Budgeting for decision-making isn’t much different than budgeting for personal finance. There are some key differences, however, the primary one being that we may be aware of how much decision-making capital that we will have to allocate for a given day.

This “choice capital” isn’t a constant. It is subject to variations based on mood, day, and numerous other factors. Mental strain, restlessness, outside factors weighing upon our mental faculties, and carried-over excess from previous days can also reduce the quality and quantity of our ability to adequately make decisions.

Something our education system does well is showing us how to stagger our usage of choice capital while we’re children. It’s an excellent primer for how to partition our days into chunks of time to allow us to focus on an individual subject. All of our decision-making and attention in the school system are maintained in one course at a time, usually in a block not exceeding ninety minutes.

Not only are we shown how to set aside time to work on one thing, but we’re also taught that overworking one subject won’t produce better results – only mental strain.

That the modern workday isn’t divided as such shows that, while we were once carefully taught, we’ve abdicated the opportunity to segment our own assignments into a system that prioritizes mental clarity and task optimization.

Another factor in the improvement of spending choice-capital is to factor in routines, thereby limiting the need for daily decision-making in unimportant tasks. For instance, meal planning, scheduling exercise blocks, and setting up a general wardrobe scheme are all examples. Rather than waking up and thinking, “What will I eat?”, already knowing let’s you push your brain into its next steps.

Imagine a whole morning where you:

  1. Wake up
  2. Eat (the same thing as yesterday, and you’ll have the same thing tomorrow)
  3. Do your morning practice (work out, make the bed, meditate, write, etc.)
  4. Put on your clothes (Maybe you’ll have Mon-Fri outfits, or a set weekend go-to. Steve Jobs liked jeans and turtlenecks. President Obama had two suit colors, and would alternate each working day)

And there you have it. Two hours of your morning, and not a single ounce of choice capital expended.

Digitizing my life

I’ve been working on decluttering for some time now. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate in a short amount of time.

One way I’m doing that is scanning documents that I don’t physical copies of anymore. It’s a challenge, as I have boxes full of files that, for some reason, I’ve carried around rather than getting rid of.

Another tool is photographing something that I want to remember, but don’t really have a use for. Even actual photographs themselves, as addressed in this post from Courtney Carver.

An empty page

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”
– Jack Kerouac

Life is painted on empty canvas by our own hands. The image or words you leave behind are all that matter, in the end.

Be you. Be weird.

One of my first shows out of college, I was backstage on Sundays with a handheld UHF/VHF television, probably a Sony Watchman, watching football games. At the time I followed the Miami Dolphins with a religious fervor.

I was new to the theatre. I worked in a sports venue and I grew up a fan of Miami. So, it was just something I did.

In the theatre, there are a number of types. The sports fan is among the rarities. Admittedly I don’t follow sports all that much now. Still own a good deal of Dolphins swag, but I couldn’t even tell you who they got in the Draft.

But the thing is, sports or no, theatre or no, it doesn’t matter what you’re in to. You just need to be you. No one else. Be weird. Be yourself.

Usefulness of lists

I go back and forth on lists. As, really, I do with most things. I’ll find lists useful… until I don’t. Right now, with the chores piled up from being gone for three months, I’m operating on list mode.

Recommendations for how to use lists include:

The purpose of listing to-do items is to get it off your mind. According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, “…if it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you’ll come back to regularly and sort through.”

While I generally find some way to revel in my procrastinations, my to-do list this time around has been getting checkmarks in the completed column. Here’s to keeping it up.

Meditation on failure

It doesn’t matter that we fail from time to time. In fact, we should know failure. That failure creates an opportunity to learn like no other.

If all we had known was success then we aren’t pushing ourselves. We’re doing a disservice to the world that can influence, and a disservice to our own well-being.

Certainly, I have failed. Made decisions that ran counter to my own best interests. I’ve lied, cheated, and stole. I’ve broken laws and misused trusts that were placed in me. For the pain and suffering I’ve caused I am deeply sorry. I hope that in my failure I’ve learned enough to make amends.

And still, it is my desire to do better, to be better. There aren’t many opportunities in life that don’t require the rocking of the boat from time to time. Safe sailing yields no new treasures.

So fail, then. Live openly, live truthfully, and live bravely. You’ll get knocked on your ass from time to time. But all you can do is get up, dust yourself off, and try again.


I worked with a guy who would delete every text message on his phone that didn’t come from his wife. It was an elegant system, in that once the loop was closed, he no longer needed the text message. So het got rid of it.

On the other end of the spectrum, someone like Stephen Wolfram apparently saved basically every scrap of paper he’s ever received, and uses digital backups of all his informational correspondence and projects. It’s databased, and he can basically find just about anything he’s ever worked on, in some form or another.

While I’m at neither extreme, I am defintely closer to Wolfram in the hoarding bits of paper and computer files. I’m nowhere near as technological as he is, but last year I did start scanning documents that I had collected over the years.

This comes up because (while in seclusion), I’ve been cleaning up my computer files some. This time has given me some insight into how I systemize my computer, and my life. Needless to say, it’s been a little messy of late.

But that’s okay! It’s fun to be messy sometimes… as long as you can find what you need.

Building routines in solitude

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

The past five weeks or so have been hectic, to say the least. Routines are either strengthened in such circumstances or fall apart.

Personally, I’m only now coming into a routine I’m getting happy with. And mostly I’m stealing it from other suggestions, or I choose to fall back on old habits.

Every morning I write my morning pages (MP), a la Julie Cameron. I’ve been doing this on and off since Nov. 2015, and this year I’ve been fairly dedicated to it. In quarantine, it’s been no problem.

The challenge I’ve had is actually waking up and doing the pages first thing. I’ve unconsciously built up a routine of checking my phone first thing in the morning. Well, that had to stop.

In Dalio’s Principles, he says it takes about eighteen months to change a habit. I’d always heard it was twenty-eight days, before reading Dalio. While a little research may enlighten my understanding, I’m going to wait a bit before running down that rabbit hole.

Following my MP, I do a morning meditation. I either use my Insight Timer app, or I’ll use one of the guided meditations I have from the CDM Spiritual Center.

Then I sit down to write. That pretty much makes up my morning, other than coffee and something to eat for breakfast. Coffee actually comes first once I shamble out of bed. The food comes in at about 11 am.

I’ve actually set this out on the calendar app, and try to follow it as closely as I can. The afternoon routine will come in a later post. I’m still tweaking that one.