What I learned after fighting over a scavenger hunt in a museum

6ish months into our relationship, Adee and I were visiting her family in Toronto. We signed up for a scavenger hunt at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) one night. It was winter so we walked in wearing 20lbs of ski gear. 

The organizer lady circled up all of the participants and started to read off the rules. I heard a few of them and started to make a game plan of how we would start, tuning out as she continued.

She finished and I immediately started speed walking and yelled to Adee, “This way!” We were given a sheet of paper with clues for each item. As we got to the place I thought the first item was in Adee read off the clues to me. Half listening, I just looked for the item. 

Minutes later she found it. 

She started reading off the clues to the next one, and I took off again. This time leading us to the wrong place and costing us 5 minutes. Eventually we make it to the next one and continued.

This goes on for another 45 minutes. Her reading the clues and me moving really quickly.

At one point towards the end we’re sort of lost because I had sprinted in a direction before I really knew where we were supposed to go.

Then we got in a big fight. Picture us whispering to each other loudly. 

Adee was pissed off that I kept trying to control where we went without really listening to where we were supposed to go. I got pissed back because defensiveness. 

Slowly and painfully I saw that she was right. 5 years later this story is still a source of laughter between us but also of a bigger theme.

I’ve had a habit of rushing through things. Of moving before even knowing what it is I’m supposed to do. This has shown up at work, reading, responsibilities around the house, and just about everything in my life.

Adee used to start busting out laughing at me when we’d work together sometimes because she’d hear me holding my breath, then letting it out all at once, repeatedly. I found that that would happen any time I was rushing through emails.

This worked really well when I was a competitive exerciser where everything was done for time. (The moving quickly, not the breathing) Not so much in the real world.

It has caused me to make more mistakes. It has led to a lack of presence and forgetting what people say to me because I’m focused on doing the next thing on my list. It has led to me not enjoying things that I would usually enjoy such as reading.

In his book, Skin in the Game, Nassim Taleb says that as soon as we try to optimize anything for efficiency it loses its enjoyability. Anytime we just rush through things it tends to suck. 

So I’ve been on a journey.

A journey of slowing down. 

I’m intentionally reading more slowly, to savor and comprehend what I’m reading. To enjoy it.

I’m hanging out with less people so I have more time with myself.

When I work I don’t multitask. I focus on what I’m working on and then move on.

I’ve started a garden. I’m playing music. I’m doing more things for the sake of doing them rather than as a means to an end or a way to “get ahead.”

Because of this I’m feeling calmer. I make fewer mistakes. I’m more productive in less time. I have more moments throughout the day of feeling grateful. 

The most important byproduct of slowing down for me is that I feel more present. More alive.

For me there is no destination at which I expect to arrive. The world we live in is constantly pushing us to do more, buy more, experience more. What no one tells us is that by constantly trying to do more, we never fully experience anything. We’re always focused on the next thing. 

For me this is a practice just like meditation. Every time I get distracted and feel the need to rush, I can bring myself back to center, and slow down.

I see a future where living the Slow Life™ is hip. Deeply connecting with others, spending more time in nature, savoring moments that we used to think were mundane, being fully present in our lives. 

More recently Adee and I had a complete meltdown in a beautiful Paris museum. Picture us pissed and whispering again. But that’s a story for another day.

The Positive Focus Tool

We humans are almost never satisfied.  The moment we achieve something or acquire something or experience something, our mind wanders to the next biggest, newest, and shiniest thing.  This is called the hedonic treadmill. When we constantly want for more while losing track of what we already have in our lives, we cannot be happy or fulfilled.

1 month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago, etc. I was dreaming of accomplishing of what I’ve accomplished today.  Yet sometimes all I can think about is the future and goals and anything but the present.

A while ago I outlined a stoic tool called negative visualization which is a great way to LOVE what you already have.

I learned another useful tool a few months ago from a phenomenal business coach named Dan Sullivan called “The Positive Focus.”  This is a tool for reminding yourself of the things that you have accomplished so you can operate from a place of power rather than one of reactivity and weakness.

It’s very simple:

At the beginning of your day, a meeting, any new project, start out by writing down or verbalizing one to three things that you are proud of that has moved your towards your goals.  Yeah, no shit that’s actually it.  Try it for yourself and see.

Mindset Ceiling

Adee and I recently went to a business seminar and heard this great idea by one of the best business coaches in the world, Dan Sullivan.

He said that each one of us is operating at 100% capacity of our current mindset ceiling.  Lift the ceiling, and you will immediately improve.  This is a lifelong process.  I believe that we should be constantly searching for thoughts and beliefs that are holding us back from reaching our full potential.

The Art of Learning

I read a book called “The Art of Learning” a while back by Josh Waitzkin.  Josh was one of the greatest chess players of all time, a world champion Tai Chi artist, and now is one of the top performance psychologists for executives in the world.

Here is one of the biggest lessons I got from the book, and it applies to learning anything.   If you want to master a skill or an art, you should always be doing two things:

  1. Learn and master the basics. Practice the small things as a way of life, not as an end goal. Figure out what fundamentals you need to perfect in order to be good, and continue to practice them to become great.
  1. Always be pushing outside of your comfort zone, reading, listening, playing, testing out new theories, asking questions, etc. Push yourself down the path you want to go.  Or as my new friend Joe Polish says, surround yourself with people better than you and you will naturally be pulled up.

On one hand, practice the simple fundamentals to build and maintain a solid foundation.  On the other, push outside of your comfort zone to continue sharpening the spear.  It’s common for many of us to get stuck somewhere in the middle.

Push Your Parents

I started a new master’s program in Performance Psychology recently, and the first course was on adult development and aging.   In the class there were a few sections about the stereotypes of older adults such as “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” and everything related to retirement.

I was very interested since I have 4 grandparents over 70, and I also want to support my parents as best possible as they get older.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. The research on traditional retirement (work really hard until you’re 65 then just relax and do some traveling) as related to physical and mental health is pretty shitty. Life expectancy goes way down, disease and physical complications go up, depression goes way up, etc.
  2. A large reason that older adults become so dependent on others is due to societal beliefs. Caretakers (professionals and family members) praise them when they do what they are told and reprimand them when they try to do things on their own.
  3. The research shows that, at the age of retirement, older adults are especially interested in doing work that serves others.
  4. While they may take longer to make decisions, all the research shows that older adults are just as accurate as younger people in cognitive tasks.

In general, I learned that we need a serious overhaul in the way we think about, communicate with, and support older adults.

They want to grow and learn and be challenged just like everyone else.  They want to create value for others and do something meaningful just like everyone else.  They are as capable and eager to create value in people’s lives.

My biggest takeaways:

  1. We need to push our parents and other older adults to continue trying new things, or to continue learning and growing in what they are already doing. After retirement, this doesn’t mean they need to continue having a full-time job or new career, but they should be involved in some form of worthwhile project or discipline at all times.
  2. The “I’m too old to learn this piece of technology” excuse is complete bullshit. My grandma thought she’d never learn how to use the iPhone.  If we would have agreed with her, she would never be able to Facetime with us or see pictures of us. We patiently showed her how to use it again and again until she could use those  basic functions.

Push your parents and other loved ones to try and learn new things. Don’t accept bullshit excuses about being too old.  They’ll thank you for it later.

The Process

At times I focus too much on the end goal.

At times I just focus on achievements.

At times I compare myself to others.

I’ve noticed more and more lately that I’m happiest when I focus on my own effort and fall in love with the process of learning rather than being too tied to the outcome.

There will ALWAYS be more to achieve, and there will ALWAYS be someone out there doing something, maybe not your thing, bigger and better than you.  Focus on doing YOUR thing to the best of your ability, and fall in love with the process.

The Sacred and the Secular

When you first start dating someone that you really like every moment you are with them you feel connected and fully present. You aren’t distracted by texts and work and the ball game. Every moment with that person is sacred.

If you realize that you still really like them after months of getting to know every little quirk about them, then this is for you.

The deeper into relationships we go the more intertwined our lives become. We make plans together, sometimes really big plans. We get stuff together. Eventually we live together and share an apartment, split rent, pay bills together, etc. Then we may even get married and have kids.

All of these things require secular discussion, which basically means “that which is not sacred.”

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my relationship with Adee is to separate the sacred and the secular.

One of the sacred times for us is first thing in the morning and the last hour or two before bed. At one point, we were in the habit of talking about work, bills, etc. any time they popped into our heads (which is the natural tendency).

After a while we both felt a lack of connection and increased stress in general.

Once we learned about this concept we created rules to protect the sacred such as:

  • No talk of work, bills, or planning in the early morning or late night
  • No phones at the table while eating
  • No phones or talk of work while on a date or with friends (unless it comes up naturally in a conversation).

I encourage you to make your own rules to protect the sacred in your relationship. And follow them! Nothing is worse than making and breaking a commitment.

Letting Go of Resentments

Holding on to resentments is one of the most corrosive things you can do for your mental health.

When I hold on to resentments I’m doing so for a purpose.  The irrational thought is,”So and so has wronged me, and if I let go of this resentment then I let him/her off the hook.”

By holding on to these resentment I am “punishing” that person for wronging me.  But who is it really hurting?  Sure you can deny someone of your attention and friendship, but by “giving someone free rent in your head” YOU are the one that is really getting screwed.

I’ve held a resentment for years over a one-time event.  That means that for years I carried anger and discomfort around with me any time I thought of this person.  Not a very efficient way of dealing with emotions.

Through AA years ago I learned the absolute most effective way for dealing with resentments.  Try this out:

  1. Write down the name of the person, institution or idea.
  2. Write down objectively what they did to harm you.
  3. Write down what it affected – pride, self-esteem, finances, intimate relationships, friendships, etc.
  4. Write down your part in the situation.  This is the most important part. Sometimes my part is as simple as NOT saying something that I could have said to get what I wanted.  It could be something subtle or something blatant.  If you really feel like you had no part in it, keep thinking.

By stating and owning YOUR part in the situation, many times it will allow you to have even the slightest bit of compassion for the person.  If you’d have acted differently then maybe they would have to.

When we live with the belief that we are responsible for creating our own reality, we can live happy and free of resentment.

 

No One Here is a Stranger

I walked into a gas station in Austin yesterday to pay for gas.  I was greeted by an Indian man who thrust his hand forward as I approached.  He smiled and gave me a firm hand shake.  I smiled and shook back.

I told him what I wanted, he started to put it through, and then I asked him,”What’s the handshake about?”

He said,”Everyone that comes through that door is my family.  No one here is a stranger.  I love humanity.”

That sent a lightning bolt straight through my heart.  That is my favorite shit in the world.  In many ways I couldn’t be more different than this guy.  Large, young, white, tattoo covering my arm, etc. yet this guy greeted me like a friend he sees daily.

I want to be the guy that treats others like that, even when I’m at my worst.  Even when I’m sad, hurt, and scared.  Anyone with me?

 

How to Get (and keep) the Guy/Girl of Your Dreams

I think the natural tendency when looking for a partner is to focus on THEM.  Focus on the way we want them to look, on how smart we want them to be, what kind of personality we want them to have, etc.

We talk to our friends about what we are looking for and we either go out and search or we just sit and wait.

The problem with that is that finding the RIGHT person and getting them to go out with you is largely outside your control.

So rather than going out with a net, trolling the bottom trying to “find the right one,” try to attract them instead.  As Justin Su’a said on our podcast,”Like attracts like.”

So if you want someone that is patient, then you yourself work on being more patient.  Want someone more open-minded?  Then work on it yourself.  Someone confident that works on overcoming all of their insecurities?  Well then you have to do that work too to earn the right to be with a person of that caliber.

“Love finds you when you least expect it” because you are focused on building the qualities of the person you want to be with rather than being busy searching.

The same goes for friendship and leadership.

If you do happen to attract and hook the person of your dreams, the way to keep them is the same way you got them.  Keep working on yourself.  Be ever more honest, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, etc.  It takes two to tango, but all that is in your control is the work you do on yourself and the attitude you bring to the relationship.