Love Improv #1

I love you.

No you don't.

Yes I do.

No, you don't.

Why? Why do you say that??

Because...

Because, WHY?

Because you don't.

How would you know? Do you know what it's like to be loved?

Yes, and you don't love me.

Explain.

Well, if you REALLY loved me, wouldn't you love yourself FIRST?

What does THAT mean?

It's simple: Do you love yourself?

How am I supposed to answer that question?

Just answer.

Well, yeah. I love me some ME.

Sure.

Wait! Now you're saying that I don't love myself? How the hell would you know?

Simple. Just watch yourself.

Meaning?

Here's what I see. You never go for what you want. For example, you could've asked for a raise or almost anything from work, and you don't. Why?

...I don't know. Doesn't feel like it's time.

Time?

Yeah. The timing isn't right.

When will it be right?

When it feels right?

Don't you think you deserve more? Don't you think you need to grow as a person? Do you think you're growing professionally?

What does this have to do with me loving YOU?

Everything.

How?

Because. If you're unwilling to fight and be courageous for you, then to what extent are you willing to fight and be courageous for me?

Don't you see? However you treat yourself is how you'll treat me - maybe not NOW, but someday. You say you care about other people, but you don't pay enough attention to your own needs.

You say you want ME to be my best physically, but YOU don't even care for your own body. You eat just about anything and exercise a few times a month. Your health suffers, then you complain about how you FEEL lousy all the time.

You say you want me to learn and grow, but here you are playing video games after you get home from work. And when you're NOT doing THAT, you're too busy watching TV.

You say you'd love me to make more money where I work, but you won't ask for what you deserve at your own job.

You say you'd love to live in a better place, but you spend all your money on clothes. How do you expect to move up in life if you can't save ANYTHING?

The other day, that waitress dropped a few dishes on the floor and you laughed. Anybody who's half aware could see she was embarrassed. How can you love me when you can't feel empathy for others?

So, what are you saying? What do you want me to do?

It's simple. Stop asking me what I want. What do YOU want?

Say what?

Look. The most important question you can ask in a relationship is, "What do I want?"

That seems backwards. But...wait a minute.

Just think about it. I'm going to head home. Can we meet tomorrow for dinner?

Wait a second. I want you to stay. That's what I want. Soooo....what do you want?

I want to stay, too, but I have some work that I want to get finished.

Gotcha. It's nice to know where we stand. This has me thinking about our conversation earlier about love.

Dinner tomorrow?

I'd love that.


50:30:20

[nectar_dropcap color=””]M [/nectar_dropcap]exico City. Chicago. Two researchers digging into how emotion gets expressed in human language. They interviewed young (people in their 20’s) and old (people in their 60’s). Robert Schrauf, associate professor of applied linguistics and an anthropologist at Penn State, found something unusual in his study, despite the age and cultural differences of his participants.

“I found this surprising result,” Schrauf says. “Half of all the words that people produce from their working vocabulary to express emotion are negative. And 30 percent are positive and 20 percent are neutral.”

“And every single one of these groups, young Mexicans and old Mexicans, young Anglos and old Anglos, had the same proportions, 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral.”

What does it mean?

According to Schrauf’s research (albeit limited in scope), the language that we use to express emotion comprises a 50:30:20 ratio (negative:positive:neutral). Obviously, this is a gross generalization, but still eye-opening.

Does this mean that we experience more negative and neutral experiences (on average) in our daily lives than positive ones? Maybe you can take note of your daily experiences.

Are these experiences regional or cultural? Are they a product of evolution or progress?

If humans do experience more “negativity” on average, is that by intelligent or biological design or is it a product of the environment that we created, perhaps haphazardly?

The world is meaningless

The outside world you experience is inherently meaningless. There must be meaning-makers to give the world, and everything in it, meaning.

A slap on the face could mean anything, depending on whether you’re on the receiving end or not. A slap could make you laugh (Youtube the Three Stooges), angry, or even shame (“I deserved that.”)

But SOMEBODY must give the world meaning or none of us would survive – and here’s where it gets interesting.

Somebody gives an event meaning. We’ll call this person the authority. People watch the authority “react” to an event, and depending on his or her reaction, others mirror that reaction.

We have the original meaning-maker, the authority. Then we have the “followers” mimicing what they see.

One person is using their imagination. The other is just observing their authority and following suit.

50:30:20 – a ratio that transcends age and culture.

Questions

Are you aware that you’re giving events meaning?

Are you CHOOSING the meaning you’re giving incidents/events or are you following/mirroring what somebody else has shown you?

And if you are aware that you’re consciously giving meaning to everyday life, and YOU ALONE have that power, why in the world would you choose to experience a 50:30:20 ratio? Why not a 10:80:10 ratio?

Put another way, if language has an impact on a person’s direct experience of the world, why would you purposely choose to have more negative or neutral experiences than positive ones? Wouldn’t you switch out so-called negative words for positive words to enhance your life experience AS SOON AS POSSIBLE??

I’m interested.

More on this later.

Paul


Cheaters, greed, and stacking the deck

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ill Belichick is coach of the New England Patriots. He is considered one of the best coaches in the HISTORY of the league and his teams over the years have won 3 Superbowls, and they're on the verge of earning another. Belichick is also known for bending the rules in his team's favor, and has been caught cheating on one occasion. He's currently under investigation for deflating balls in the AFC Championship game this past Sunday, although it's a moot point. The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7.

If you go beyond surface reports, and look a little deeper, it becomes easy to speculate that others may be involved in more subtle ways, including Patriots' owner Robert Kraft and NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. During Spygate, Goodell reviewed and notoriously destroyed the tapes Belichick illegally made of other teams prior to games, prompting criticism from Senator Arlen Specter. Why would you do that, Commish?

In the end, who knows who's involved. Whether cheating is only happening on the coaching level or in NFL front offices, visiting teams that enter the Patriots' home stadium will be using extra precautions. Is that red light a camera? Are there microphones in this room? It's enough to drive a coach crazy, but many coaches are paranoid anyway.

Ok, enough about the Patriots, what's the point??

The point is, why cheat when you have more than one Lombardi trophy in the trophy case? Why cheat when you're three championships ahead of most teams? Why cheat when you're wildly successful, year in and year out?

The answer is simple. Greed, a lust for more and more power. And power has a funny way of going to somebody's head. Take a look...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vvl46PmCfE

Where's the empathy?

Unfortunately, greed plays out with much greater consequences in everyday life. In politics, government bureaucrats have the opportunity to make policy decisions that impact millions of people's lives. Do you really think that the senator of Kansas can have empathy for somebody he's never even met? How about somebody whom he can't even culturally relate to?

It's hard for anybody to relate to strangers and unknown cultures, but what about people who have been misunderstood and misrepresented? Not exactly a recipe for empathy, either.

Is it any wonder that politics and policy is driven by the wealthy among us? How can the poor have a voice if they cannot be heard? If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns, we have witnessed the wealthiest among us, the teams with the most trophies in their closet, cheat their way out of costly company decisions. With government and big corporations feeding into each other, it's no wonder that the wealth inequality gap increases day by day.

Here's an excerpt from an article from the New York Review of Books, titled:

The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

According to the Brennan Center report super PACs have spent more than one billion dollars on federal election campaigns. And because these organizations are free of any limits, they have proved to be magnets for those who have the resources to spend lavishly to further their interests. About 60 percent of that billion dollars has come from just 195 people. Those 195 individuals have only one vote each, but does anyone believe that their combined expenditure of over $600 million does not give them disproportionate influence on the politicians they have supported? The average contributions of those who give more than $200 to such super PACs are in the five- and six-figure range. The average donation over $200 to the ironically named Ending Spending, a conservative PAC, was $502,188. This is a game played by, and for, the wealthy.

How can you come to any other conclusion other than, elections are bought? And if you think politicians decisions only affect the rich and the poor, don't forget that skin color plays a major factor, too. How many wealthy Native American billionaires do you know of? Conversely, how is the average Native family living, day to day?

Politics infiltrates prisons and jails taking campaign dollars from privatized prison companies. A 2012 Associated Press review found that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and a third privately-held company Management and Training Corp. spent at least $45 million in combined lobbying and campaign contributions at the federal and state levels in the previous decade.

People of color have been disproportionately imprisoned for much longer terms than their white counterparts for similar crimes. Policies here in California have led to an over-crowding in prisons, which leads to more privatized companies negotiating contracts with the state. How out-of-control is our prison system? According to a case study (found here) titled:

PRIVATE PRISONS AND INCARCERATION

The Problem and Its Impact on People of Color

The United States puts more people in prisons and jails than any other country in the world. The number of people incarcerated here has increased by 500 percent over the past three decades to 2.2 million.157 This striking change has not been a reaction to increasing crime. In fact, the current rate of serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and assault is at its lowest level since 1963.158 Instead, the rise in incarceration is due to policy changes in the criminal justice system, including dramatic increases in the length of sentences for similar crimes caused by mandatory sentencing and three-strikes policies as well as the “war on drugs.”159 The incarceration rate of people sentenced to more than a year of prison has more than tripled over the past 30 years—from 139 to 502 people per 100,000 in the general population.160

Private prisons are HUGE business, and as long as policy drives "human resources" through the door, a corporation can pay labor .10 cents an hour and get away with it. Why outsource to China when you can get cheaper labor right in your hometown?

So what, Paul??

Not enough people know the game is rigged, but thanks to the internet, some researchers who give a f***, and a few courageous souls, we can watch the tyrants a little more closely. But it's about more than watching and understanding HOW they cheat, it's about what YOU and I are ultimately going to do about it.

Washington is a lost cause as long as local politics is a lost cause. We can only change Washington D.C. on a local level. The Washington machine is made to serve the wealthy elite, break families apart, miseducate children, and build more wealth for the obscenely wealthy. Most politicians are bought, the question is, by whom? This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. Corruption is corruption.

The key is awareness. The key is understanding how a decision or policy is affecting your bank account, your family's health, your economic mobility, and your happiness.

Happiness. How about that?

Listen. I'm not saying that the "powers that be" are controlling your life, how you see the world, or whether you believe in yourself enough or not. But to deny their everyday influence through schooling, media, and other "cultural" managers is utter ignorance.

We have to regain control over the one thing that gives us a fighting chance. An opportunity to really change things, and hopefully, one day, experience true transformation.

Our body. Our mind. Our spirit. The power lies within us all. Don't let that go. Ever.

True power is WITH, not OVER people.

Paul

People-feel-like-the-system


Superhuman

The following post is written by me (obviously), for me (not so obvious), but you know the old saying: if the shoe fits....

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] wonder what it's like to be superhuman. Does that mean I can do incredible things with my body? Strength and flexibility, along with deft skill applied to any physical challenge?

Is it supreme mental ability, the power to compute large algorithms in minutes? The ability to simplify the most complex problems into their most essential parts, so any moron can digest them in seconds?

Is it the ability to understand and empathize with people so well that it causes them to think you're a mind reader? Is it the ability give a speech or talk to a group and somehow, some way, everybody in the room thinks that you MUST be talking to them?

Or is it using the power of imagination to create new worlds, generate solutions to long standing problems, and to create great works of art?

A few blog posts back, I wrote that everything's made up, and guess who's making it up?

Who knows? But one thing's for sure - If you're NOT, somebody IS.

As Steve Jobs once said:

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact:

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you - and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. 

Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

The choice

Sometimes we have to be reminded of our greatness.

Sometimes the reminder has to be stated very bluntly, but once it sinks in, we have to make a decision.

Do we go back to sleep, live in the cloud of mediocrity, and consistently settle for short-term gratification?

OR

Do we challenge ourselves to be better humans each day? Do we aspire to greatness beyond what our own imagination is telling us? Do we go for being superhuman, which is far beyond what we intend to be as we walk out  into the world each day?

You have to want such things as progress and evolution. You have to want to sacrifice short-term gratification (short-term, NOT instant, because a pay check comes steadily every two weeks). You have to want something so bad that you take moon-shots (risks) instead of the standard and conventional.

Desire is key to this entire equation. Your "why?" will drive you to great heights or settle for the short mound that's right in front of you.

Whatever you do each day is driven by a reason, some overarching (or perhaps subtle) purpose.

1.) What do you consistently do each and every day?

2.) Why do you do THAT?

If you are satisfied with your reasons, then you're on course. If NOT, then you know what to do.

The best YOU does NOT exist...yet

Superhuman, the best YOU that could possibly exist, is NOT a myth, but it doesn't exist right now. Your best you is in the realm of the unknown, and asks you to leave the known behind and risk insecurity, doubt, and confusion. Your best self is undiscovered, and requires courage and perseverance to reach him or her.

It doesn't mean death-defying feats of strength or ability. It's not pushing the limits of your mind by making objects move through telekinesis. It's not going out and making 30 million dollars in two years, either.

It means you must be the best you in every moment of your existence. It means accepting pain (physical or psychological) as a growing tool. It means sacrificing comfort for productivity. It means doing one more set, one more rep, taking one more call, writing one more blog post, and making one more offer to somebody that can benefit from your products and services.

It ultimately means living the kind of life and lifestyle that makes you say, "I'm so fortunate to be alive today."

The question is, how long will it take you to get on YOUR path, and leave the conditioned, tried-and-true one behind?

It's not like you have 20, 10, 5, or even 1 more year of life guaranteed to you.

Time to make it happen NOW.

Let's push ourselves in 2015. We can do better than this.

Paul

Martin-Luther-King-Quote


One Step Closer

I was thinking the other day...

Life is hard.

I thought about this. Nothing seems easy. If I want to live, work is required. The expenditure of energy is necessary to get results. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. No action, no results.

Yes, life is hard, but withholding my energy from some person or project not only makes my life harder, it makes it less fulfilling.

What are you giving to life? What are you getting back?

Accomplishing anything worthwhile requires so much hard work.

If I want to accomplish anything noteworthy or worthwhile, then hard work is mandatory. There is no short cut, no easy hack, no magic pill to swallow. Busting my ass is the only answer to achieving anything worthwhile.

I think about the things I want to see in the world...

  • write a few books
  • create a magazine
  • develop a few apps
  • Tibet, India and the Himalayas
  • Siberia
  • perform on stage, either as speaker or actor
  • a stronger, healthier body

None of it is easy. There are no short-cuts. I have to put in the time and practice, the energy and effort to make it all happen.

All of these things require devotion. It's not a word I use very often, but if there's no devotion, then I'll never put in the time.

devotion |diˈvōSHən|

noun

love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause

What are you devoted to?

Most of the time, I don't WANT to do the hard work.

I don't want to do the hard work most of the time. I'd rather relax, watch a Youtube video or sports, read a book, or surf the internet. Who wants to work out and exercise? Who wants to write everyday especially when you don't feel like it?

I'm learning that when I face the hurdle of not wanting to do something, then I should find someone that does. In the connected world and economy that we live in, it's not that hard to find someone who compliments your skill set.

Stop whining about hard work and figure out what you're willing to work hard on.

Then find other people to do the hard work you want no part of.

Collaboration is a lesson I'm learning (the hard way).

Who do you know that can do the things you don't want to do?

It's easy to do nothing and be lazy.

Initiating a new project is exciting and invigorating, but after the excitement ends, real work needs to get done. It becomes easy to do nothing and get a little lazy.

But I've noticed something about my laziness. I'm lazy when I'm not clear on what to do next, and I'm not clear on what to do next because I don't have enough reasons to BE CLEAR. Kinda circular, I know.

Knowing your "why?" is crucial to doing anything in life.

I'm also lazy if I'm doing something I've never done before and I know my process is going to be very inefficient.

What if all laziness was a by-product of my inability to see clearly? What if laziness was simply a result of my own uncertainty?

If the next steps aren't clear to me, then I can be sure of one thing: I will definitely procrastinate.

Define the next steps with clarity. Be concrete. Write it down. 12 different people should be able to take what you've written down, perform the next steps, and produce similar results.

If you're being lazy or procrastinating then spend more time being clear. If a problem repeats itself or still confuses you, then spend more time defining the actual problem.

Clarity (easy to perceive, understand, or interpret) = Power (the ability to do something or act in a particular way)

The more CLEAR you are, the more POWER you will exhibit.

Remember that.

It's easy to quit when things get tough.

And it will get tough. I start a project and pretty soon I find that there's something or someone I don't know, something I don't know how to do, or a task that is beyond my current skill level.

Starting Everybody's Famous quickly taught me what I didn't know, and what I'd have to learn quickly.

  • Will this venture succeed? How can I validate a magazine, actually get people to fork over their cash for something that doesn't exist yet?
  • How will this magazine earn money? What's the business model? What will people pay for? What's the value being delivered?
  • What kind of corporation is it? LLC, C, S, or B?
  • Since the magazine requires content, stories from local communities, where will that content come from? How will we find those people? How do we tell compelling stories that engages just about anybody?
  • What other legal considerations, ethical questions need to be answered?
  • I'm not a journalist. I'm not a photographer or videographer. I'm not an audiophile. EFM is a multi-media magazine, so I'm going to have to learn fast. Each one of those statements comes with a bunch of questions, research, and activities.

I could be here all day listing everything I don't know about how to run a magazine or a business, but the point is, each one of these challenges are learning opportunities. And learning requires lots of mistakes. Lots of them.

In the beginning of learning anything, there will be a disproportionate amount of mistakes to what you do right. Know this and suck it up.

It's easy to quit when you suck at something, but anything worth doing is worth doing POORLY.

Do it wrong, learn, and grow. Just don't quit when things get tough.

But I don't know "how?"

I learned a few years back NEVER to ask how to do something until I've tried it first. I never realized that question could be used as a cop out from true action. I'd say 90% of the people who ask "how?" before any research or taking some kind of action are not truly serious.

I used to be like that, maybe not verbally but definitely in my head. I found over time that if someone has enough desire, has enough reasons to do something, they'll find a way to make it happen.

I also found that if I dug down deep enough into a problem or project that the next step to take was always within my line of sight. Even if I couldn't see beyond that next step, I always knew what the very next step was, and once I took it, then next one would reveal itself.

Stop playing around. You know what the next step is. The next step you need to take for your relationships. Your business. Your community. Be responsible and take it. Stop asking "how?" and just do it. At least Nike got that right.

Oh, and from now on, replace "how?" with "why?" to get to the heart of things. If your purpose isn't strong enough, it won't get done anyway, regardless of all the how-to books in the world.

WHY always beats HOW.

I can do so much better...

Really? You can have a better relationship, a better job, a better home, and a better life?

Then do something about it.

'Better' requires a little bit of faith. Faith requires a clear vision.

If you don't have a vision for your life and all your ideals - your ideal average day, your ideal relationship, your ideal job, etc. - then you won't act. You'll talk and talk and talk, but nothing will get done.

Faith and risk require a solid vision or plain ignorance. You'll go on with your sh*tty job and your mediocre lifestyle, but nothing will get 'better' unless you see things clearly and ACT.

So basic, but it's easy to get caught up in our own heads.

Besides, if you have a clear vision and are taking the necessary actions to see it through, you'll be able to put up with that sh*tty job a little while longer. Your time there is coming to an end, and you KNOW it. It's just a matter of time.

Can you imagine? Working that job and having no light at the end of the tunnel?

Having no vision sucks. Not acting at all is worse.

C'mon, let's do this. Life can be better for all of us, and you know it.

What's your next step?

For work?

In your relationships?

For your health?

For recreation and travel?

For learning?

For your money?

Clarity is one step closer. Take a step towards your vision today.

Even if it's tiny and miniscule.

Just one.

Paul


Practice

I was swimming at the local pool, and was envious of all the people diving off the high dive. I knew I was afraid of heights, but I couldn't take it anymore. I had to try it.

I climb the ladder, get to the top, and look down.

I can't jump. I'm coming down.

I must've been 7 or 8 years old. I haven't been on another high dive since.


I'm 20 years old and I'm working as a security guard in on of the tallest buildings in downtown Seattle. This one happens to be 63 stories high, and during training, my supervisor takes me to the rooftop.

I step outside and I'm frozen with fear. I see the top of buildings and am clearly above the entire city, except for the building across the street from me, which is around 75 stories high. I immediately get down on my knees and my supervisor is laughing at me, but I don't care.

I'm crawling close to the ground, and every once in awhile I sneak a peek at the entire city. The height has unleashed my fear, and I'm desperate to leave.

We head towards the stairs, and lock the door behind us. I feel like I just landed on blessed Earth, and for a moment I'm grateful, but I know I have to come back. Not because it's my job, but because I have to conquer my fear. I just have to do it.


The next time I go up, my fear returns, but I do less crawling this time. I go to the far edge and peek over. It's tough but I hold it for a few moments longer. I head back towards the door, low to the ground, but at least I'm not crawling.

I'm making progress.

This continues. I go up, walk low to the ground, peek over the edge, stay a few minutes longer than the last time, and head back.

Eventually, I'm fearless walking on the rooftop, looking at this beautiful city from every angle I can, taking pictures, and finally enjoying the scenery. I'm became comfortable with my uncomfortableness until it finally left.

I feel alive.

Practice

It's funny what a consistent practice can do. It can transform fear into love, take someone with low skills to mastery, deepen learning, and develop stronger relationships.

Practice.

Einstein once said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Who knows what context he was speaking in, but I'd like to amend his quote:

Practice: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I'm reminded of the story of an old preacher. He told a riveting sermon to his congregation, and people spoke about it all week. The next week, he told the same sermon and people were equally inspired. But he wasn't done. He decided to tell it again, and again, and again.

For 3 months he told the same sermon to his congregation, until finally one of his deacons approached him and asked, "Excuse me Pastor, you do realize that you've been repeating the same sermon every week for the past 3 months?? People are concerned."

"Yes, I do realize that and I'll stop telling the same sermon, over and over again, when people actually GET IT."

Practice eliminates hypocrisy, too.

I was playing basketball at a local rec center. I had a decent shot, and was snatched up by one of the teams. The guy I was guarding was quick, a little faster than me, but had one additional skill I didn't have. He could make a shot from just about anywhere, in just about any situation. To put it another way, he was schooling me.

We played a few games, and when it was over, I had to ask him, "Where did you learn to shoot like that?"

"I shoot a thousand jumpers a day," he said, "I usually have someone with me when I practice. They throw me the ball, and then run toward me trying to stop me from making the shot. I do this a thousand times, then I'm done."

Damn.

Practice makes you awesome, too.

People come to see me all the time looking to get their lives back in order. The first thing I ask them is what they do with their time. I pull out a blank schedule, and ask them to fill in what they did for the last week.

One time, a woman was shocked to see how much TV was occupying her time. I then asked her a question she'll never forget.

"What do you practice each and every day?"

She thought for a good 20 seconds and said, "I don't practice anything, really."

"Oh, that's not true. Looks like you're pretty good at watching TV."

She laughed, cause she thought I was joking. I just looked into her eyes, and then she got it.

"I need to change that," she finally said.

"Unless you're satisfied with what you have," I said making sure she was aware of her options.

"No. I need to change."

Practice leads to crappy results, too.

What's your practice?

I know I've talked about this before, but I'm like that cranky old preacher.

What are you doing with your life everyday? Because you're practicing something, and whatever it is, you're getting better at it.

It's all good if you're getting better at the right things, but what if you're getting better at the wrong things? Who determines right and wrong? You do. Just be honest with yourself.

For now, I'm practicing my writing. In a few, I'll be practicing some eating and maybe relax my mind with a movie.

Tomorrow, I'll be practicing writing some more, doing some business practice for the magazine, some exercise practice, maybe some yoga practice.

What about you?

If you're satisfied with what you have or your current results, maintain the practice. But if you want to get better at something, if you want different results, you'd better practice that.

How else are you gonna get there?

Paul

Practice: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


INFP

"You're a loner."

I was standing in the cold on campus at the University of Washington (UW), talking to my dad on a pay phone.

I was silent after his last statement. He began again.

"It's not like you CAN'T make friends. You just don't want to. Nothing wrong with that."

I got off the phone and his statement stuck to me. I'm a loner.

I thought about it some more. Yup, I have no problem with that.

Introvert

I've known for awhile that I'm an introvert. I didn't really care for social settings when I was younger, although I'm much better now.

I remember visits to our relatives and sometimes I would just sit in the car. "You coming in?", my dad would ask, probably already knowing what my answer was.

No. I'll be fine right here.

And I would sit in the car until it was time to leave. If someone came outside, I would hide so they wouldn't come over and talk to me.

I remember times during high school when girls would say hello to me, and I'd just stare or be non-responsive while they carried a conversation for the both of us. Tragic.

Parties were pointless. I didn't do anything but bob my head and listen to the music, if I even went at all.

You think this changed as I got older?

I remember women asking me out for coffee and I'd respond with, "Oh, I don't really drink coffee."

She's asking you out, stupid! Of course, she wouldn't know what to say after that, just give me a smile and probably wonder wtf is wrong with me. I was kind of oblivious. Probably still am.

I missed some key opportunities in my life because I was clueless in social situations. I'm sure it's cost me, but to what degree, who can say?

A simple test

When I started working for a social services agency, I participated in a workshop facilitated by an expert in Myers-Briggs personality profiling.

The facilitator was contracted by the UW and I proceeded to go over 350+ statements to assess whether I agree a little, a lot, or disagree a little or a lot. At the end of the test, they tabulated the results and 4 letters were presented to me:

I N F P

I = Introvert

N = iNtuitive

F = Feeling

P = Perceiving

(To learn what an INFP is, you can go here. To learn what each letter means, go here. To take the test to find out what your type is, go here.)

The report also showed the degree to which I was an "I", "N", "F", and "P". I saw my "I" was practically off the charts. Sure, I knew I was introverted, but this much?? Can't say I was surprised, then I remembered my dad's words.

You're a loner.

He didn't mean anything by that statement, he was simply stating a fact. He probably had a little concern when he said it because I was young, and starting over in a new place. He just wanted me to be mindful of it.

Before we got off the phone, he said to me, "If you want to change, you can. It's up to you."

Acceptance & Practice

Over time I would learn to embrace who I was. I also learned how to improve myself in social arenas.

This led me to the understanding that if something can be improved upon, it's a skill. I would just need some more practice.

Some psychologists believe that your personality type is innate. Some think it's nurtured over time. Some think it's fixed, and some believe you can change it.

I'm somewhere in the middle of all of that. I've been introverted for as long as I can remember, but I'm sure I've shifted a few degrees over to the extroverted side. Maybe I'll take the longer version of the test again to find out where I am again. Maybe I won't.

Finally, there are advantages to being introverted. I get to live within my wild imagination. I've become a decent teacher and facilitator. I'm developing my writing and public speaking skills. I'm able to generate fresh ideas and practical, but innovative solutions to everyday problems.

I'm still a loner, preferring my journal to a networking event, but I'm getting better, day by day.

How about you?

Paul


Death knocks lightly

Seattle, January 1993.

I'm happy to get out of the cold rain, and enter my 'home'. I live in the basement of a run down house complete with water leaks, two inch wolf spiders, and shady people (my roommates) walking in and out of the building at all times. A fire hazard waiting to happen, this house would eventually burn to the ground in a few years.

Anyway, I open the door to my room, close and lock it, turn my small electric heater on, and wait for it to warm up my space. I feel a sense of gratitude to whoever left the heater here, even though I know it will take a good 45 minutes before my place feels toasty. I'm off for the next couple of days and have been looking forward to being out of the elements. I couldn't wait to be home.

Seattle is colder than what I'm used to, but I'm adjusting after being here for a year. Even with that adjustment, I still hold some serious anger from my past. I'm angry with certain people and frustrated by my lack of progress in life. I also hate the noise of a house full of college students, drug dealers and users, and other stragglers that managed to make this their home.

I'm full of hate. (It took me awhile to understand who I was really angry with and wouldn't realize that until the next day.) My hate is somewhere in the background, but today, something else has my attention.

I feel a little sick, and I know something's not right with me. "It's ok, I'll just get some rest," I tell myself.

I get out of my wet clothes, the heat is picking up, and I shiver a little as I get underneath my blankets. It feels good to be in bed even if I don't feel good.

But something is vaguely familiar...

Pneumonia

I've had pneumonia twice in my life. Fortunately, my parents brought me to the doctor both times for successful treatments.

I took antibiotics both times, and learned that if pneumonia is not treated properly, death can result. I also heard that having pneumonia makes someone susceptible to having it again.

I'll never forget the symptoms - the pain, the aches, the bed sweats, and the green stuff that oozed its way of out my body.

Could I have it again??

The Storm

I don't know how long I've been sleeping. I wake up.

My entire bed is soaking wet. I feel disoriented and lost. I change the sheets but know I'm in bad shape.

My body aches, but I'm happy to get back into bed with dry sheets.

I close my eyes...

I'm not sure how much time elapsed, but now I'm being attacked by black shapes. I try to open my eyes, but I can't. The black shapes are moving fast and I can't keep up. I'm hallucinating I think to myself, but I hate them. I hate that they're here to torment me. I hate them for forcing themselves into my psyche. I feel like I'm being punished.

Why are you torturing me?

I'm able to wake up, but they're still inside. I feel sluggish and weighted down by their occupation. I groan, and think to myself, leave me the f*** alone!

For some reason I think they can hear me. Maybe they can. I look at the time, and realize I've been in bed for over 10 hours. I manage to use the bathroom, come back to bed and close my eyes. They're still here.

I try to sleep some more, but the pressure is too intense.

The suffering goes on for a few more hours, gaining in intensity and momentum. It's so unbearable.

Slowly it begins to dawn on me. I'm going to die.

I feel like I'm going to die, and now I just want it over with. My fight has led to despair, and with one last prayer, I say to any benevolent entity that's listening, "Please, please... just take my life. I don't want to live anymore. Just take me."

I never seriously asked God for anything before, but this wasn't an ask. I was begging.

I slip into darkness.

The next day

I awake. My bed is soaked from my sweat. The black shapes are gone and I feel a great sense of relief. I feel liberated. I lay in the bed, somewhat achey and sore, and look at the time. 16 hours have passed, but it feels like much more. Each moment I had with those black shapes felt like an eternity.

What happened to me? I thought I was on my death bed. I just knew it. I never felt that type of suffering before. I never experienced a psychic onslaught of that magnitude in my entire life.

But here I am. Alive, and actually feeling good. Not good, but much better than where I was, and ready to begin again.

I thought and reflected on what happened and made a decision. No, it was more like a declaration.

From today forward, I will make the best of my life. I will learn what I need to learn to be my best. I will stop being so angry towards people because they're all out of my control. I will be a better person overall.

A message for you

The closeness of what felt like death brought me more life in the end. I never wanted to suffer in that manner, but it's helped me find myself much faster.

You're alive on this planet and reading this post, but a storm is coming. It doesn't care who you are, what status you hold in society, or where you came from. It's coming to all of us. Just weather the storm. You have enough in you to do that.

It will knock you over. Get back up.

It will soak you down to your bones. Change your sheets.

It will send unspeakable fears through your mind. Face them.

It will make you wanna give up. Don't.

There's something on the other side of this storm that no one talks about...

Your best self. Claim it.

I believe in you.

Paul


Now what?

I was listening to an audio book written by a business coach on the way to work this morning. She told the story of a client who accomplished her so-called dream job and the much coveted corner office. After a few months, her client began to feel empty inside, and was left asking, now what?

She thought she had everything she wanted, but what she accomplished didn't hold the personal satisfaction she thought she was looking for.

I know, first world problems, but I've witnessed the other side of the spectrum. I help people who have been homeless or formerly incarcerated get back on their feet, and many times they also end up in the same place - now what? They think they wanted the clothes, the car, a new apartment, a certain type of man/woman, but many end up in the same place.

Now what?

Now what? can become a serious problem if you don't know how to deal with it. Many get to the now what? space and turn to drugs, sex, gambling, binge TV watching, food, shopping, etc. If you don't understand that empty feeling inside, then a quick fix solution is to fill it up with something as fast as possible.

Stuffing your face full of food, smoking a little weed, flipping through channels or Youtube, and spending hard earned money on clothes you may only wear a few times are ways to fill the void inside. The only problem with these tactics is that they only mask the problem, but the truth is still waiting for you.

I experience now what? after every project is completed. I sometimes experience it after an epic blog post. I remember that now what? feeling when I came back from Europe and South America. The feeling comes and if there's no answer after the question has been asked, then I can get a little depressed.

Now what? is there to remind you that humans were meant to grow and evolve. It doesn't mean that you need to be working on something ALL the damn time. When I was in Europe I discovered my love for writing, worked on creative projects, and was free to travel when and where I pleased.

Nothing's changed since then because I still have those options, but my now what? feeling taught me to break from the norm, chuck the routine and live spontaneously - even if for a couple of weeks. I learned a lot about myself, discovered new worlds, and coming back to ordinary life taught me to want more.

Takeaways

How do you deal with that now what? feeling?

Here are a few things to remember:

  1. Now what? is a sign that you're ready to tackle a new project or problem. Ask yourself, what problem bugs me that I want to solve? Let ideas flow to you.
  2. Now what? could be a signal that you've lost sight of your personal vision, mission, or purpose in life. Call it what you want, but I believe everybody ought to be working on ideas, using their talents and gifts in unique ways to solve people problems. What are 3 big things you would like to accomplish this year? Next year? In the next 10 years? Use whatever timeline you want, just make it longer than this week.
  3. Now what? could be reminding you that what you're doing is not YOU. You're doing it because you think it will give you recognition from your boss, peers and colleagues, some dude or chic, or your parents. If you're not living life for YOU, then you may get that corner office, and in a few months be asking WTF?! Be yourself is the most cliche'd and BS advice given in the world, but powerful if carried out to its fullest expression. So, be your mutha f'n self! (I hate cliches)
  4. Now what? could be a time to sit with NO stimulation. Stop avoiding the void, and deal with it. The truth is sitting in the dark, waiting for you to face it. Whether you meet it sooner or later, it's there - the loneliness, the despair, the anger, and the I don't know what the f*** I'm doing feeling. The truth is undefeated, so taking drugs or some other escape is only prolonging the inevitable. Deal with your sh*t, head up.
  5. And finally, now what? could be telling you to relax and chill for a moment. Stop trying to make everything happen. If you're running solely off your head and not listening to your heart, you're going to have a tough life. Give in sometimes, and surrender to the almighty NOTHINGNESS. There's something powerfully peaceful in the VOID. It's just hell getting there.

Paul