2017 Lesson 2: Expand Your Horizons

2017 was an incredibly rewarding year. Why? I decided to go outside of my comfort zone on several occasions, and man am I glad I did. The one thing I did that really stretched me was a cross-country road trip from Cleveland to Boise and back. Driving cross-country was something I’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to because:
· “I don’t have the money”
· “I don’t have the time”
· “Where would I stay?”
· “I don’t know anyone”
· “I don’t know if my car can make it”
One day in March, I decided to say, “Fuck those fears. I’m doing this.” I reached out to several human resources associations, chambers of commerce, young professionals groups, leadership conferences, and nonprofits about speaking at upcoming events, not sure whether or not they’d throw my email in the SPAM folder or actually listen to what I had to say. Thankfully, out of the nearly 100 emails I sent, I got a few responses, but none of them could afford to cover my full travel expenses. Sure, I was offered a few hundred dollars, but driving over 4,000 miles was going to cost quite a bit of coin. Gas, lodging, tolls, and food on top of my usual bills without really getting a paycheck over two weeks was going to set me back financially, and though I was hesitant, I decided I would figure it out.

Holy shit am I glad I did.

Instead of focusing on why I wouldn’t be able to afford the time on the road, I shifted my focus to what I could do to make it happen and how rewarding of a trip it would be. I ended up booking three speaking engagements (Twin Falls, ID, Emmett, ID, and St. Louis, MO), none of whom could cover my expenses, but dammit I was going to get this done. As far as lodging, I ended up meeting some cool people online via CouchSurfing, a social networking community of people sharing their couches in exchange for meeting new people and hearing their stories – something I really value. My 2010 Honda Accord, Rachaeloaoeoioe (Pronounced “Rachel.” All of the extra vowels are silent), was exchanged for a brand new 2016 Accord, Schoaoeoioeron (Pronounced “Sharon.” Again, all of the extra vowels are silent), at only a small increase in my monthly car payment – definitely manageable. Now that I had destinations, knew where I was going to stay, with people I knew (through the internet), in a car I trusted not to explode on me, it was time to go.

I won’t bore you with the moment-by-moment details of the trip, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I:
· Met new people and made new friends in Iowa City, Boulder, Twin Falls, Boise, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.
· Learned all kinds of new things from someone who travels to Jordan to teach English as a second language, an opera singer who would rather be the roots of the tree than the leaves (a valuable lesson), a psychology major who left the comfort of her 9-5 to open a hostel and meet travelers from around the world, a financial planner focused on expanding his network and providing support to entrepreneurs and “gamechangers” in Boise, a teacher with a new perspective on how to look at problem students, and a dude who really loves craft beer.
· Meditated miles away from other humans beneath a sky filled with stars in the deafening silence of the mountains of Idaho, and had a serendipitous shooting star experience confirming to myself spiritually that I was in the right place at the right time.
· Witnessed an event so funny and out-of-the-ordinary, it immediately inspired me to write a comedy sketch about it, did, and ended up shooting and releasing it last month: https://youtu.be/T9iJ-yMaIBs
· Gained an appreciation for how infinite life and the universe is and how insignificant our problems really are while driving through the sheer vastness of the mountains, plains, and desert of Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, and Kansas.
· Booked a fully paid presentation based off of my presentation in Twin Falls and ensured a second trip cross-country next May.

…All of this because I chose to expand my horizons. The next time I start feeling fear when it comes to doing something new and risky, I’ll always remember what I felt before taking this trip. Now, the fears seem so insignificant compared to what I gained from choosing to expand my horizons. Because I made that choice, I expanded myself as a person when it comes to confidence, spirituality, and emotional strength, in ways I couldn’t imagine beforehand.

What risks are you afraid of taking? Is there something you want to do this year that you’ve been hesitant about? Take it from me, it’s way more worth it to say, “Fuck those fears, I’m doing this,” and then focus on what you can do to make it happen instead of what’s stopping you from doing it.

2018 Prediction #2: There won’t be a Babe 3

Sorry, Babe fans, but it’s been 20 years since Babe: Pig in the City and the demand just isn’t there. Sure there are underground cults worshipping the first two films and hoping that one day a reboot will resurface, but that little pig just doesn’t have the drawing power of a Jurassic Park, Star Wars, or – oh, for fuck’s sake – ANOTHER TRANSFORMERS MOVIE!?
Anyway, I’d bet all of my bacon that Babe isn’t making the comeback we all hoped. Sorry to smoke your sausage.

How We Can Learn from Our Evolution

Have you ever read a book, watched a TED Talk, or heard a quote that made you take a step back and ponder the meaning of your existence? Check out this excerpt from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari:

“The evolution of animals to get to where they are on the food chain took hundreds of millions of years constantly checking and balancing so that one species wasn’t dominant. Humans jumped from the middle to the top in such a short time, ecosystems didn’t get much of a chance to evolve along with them. Moreover, humans also failed to adjust. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savanna, we are full of fear and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes have resulted from this overhasty jump…”

If you’ve ever wondered why humans can be such dicks, it’s because we haven’t had time to mature yet! As a species, we’re still in the snapping bra straps, giving Indian rug burns, harassing people for being overweight phase of life while we’re at home worrying we’re not good enough, insecure about our own status as the cool kid. Still, that’s no excuse for the way we’ve been acting lately. We’re at the top of the food chain, and unless Earth is invaded by the Yautja species from the Predator movies, that’s never going to change… unless we decide to dethrone ourselves.

“Tolerance is not a trait of sapiens. In modern days, as simple a difference as skin color, dialect, and religion has been enough to prompt one group of sapiens to set about and destroy another group.”

Whoa.

We’re so worried about losing our spot as the coolest kid in class, we kill people who are different than us because they’re “threatening us.” It’s not politics, religion, or skin color that cause violent conflicts, these are surface issues. Deep down, it’s our evolutionary software telling us that everyone unlike us is trying to murder us.

The good news is that we reached the top of the food chain, not because we made weapons and killed all of the other predators, but because we developed a brain that allows us to learn from our mistakes and plan for the future, and we also learned to work as a team to overcome obstacles. Our physical adaptations worked against us so hard, that the only ways to adapt was using our brains to learn and plan and teamwork. Think about it:

· We have no fur to protect us from the cold

· We’re slower than most of our predators

· We can climb trees, but we’re not exactly great at it

· Our nails and teeth are barely butter-knife-sharp

· Our children aren’t self-sufficient until they’re basically teenagers, sometimes later

So how do we overcome our self-destructive behaviors?

Knowing that humanity is the greatest risk to humanity’s success is a great place to start. Whether it’s violence, greed, or a basic “I’m-better-than-you” mentality, these behaviors are a result of our hardwired insecurity. To overcome them, just like we overcame predators and unfriendly climates, we need to take full advantage of our evolutionary adaptations:

1. Learn from mistakes and plan for a better future

2. Work as a team to overcome obstacles

Though our insecurities lead to the differences dividing us, it’s these different perspectives, life experiences, and talents working in unison toward a common vision that will better our planet, better each other, and better our species as a whole.

IF WE CONTINUE ON THE “I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG” PATH, HUMANS ARE GOING TO KEEP FEELING THREATENED, AND WHEN HUMANS FEEL THREATENED, WE KILL EVERYTHING.

That’s just stating a historical fact.

Let’s learn from our past, imagine a better future, and work together right now to start making that happen because there’s no reason to feel insecure; we’re the cool kids around here and we aren’t moving down the food chain anytime soon.

Now That’s What I Call Everything

NOW

NOW. Is that what I call music or is it the word my parents would use emphatically so I would get off my ass and do something? Now is both and it’s so much more. Now is so much more than three letters or the title of a never-ending music compilation that started in the 90s. Now is like pi: infinite and ever changing. Now is everything. Now is all we have. If you want to make a change, the best time to do it is always now. Life is just an infinite series of nows. Now was yesterday’s tomorrow. Now is tomorrow’s yesterday. Now is when I am writing this blog. Now is when you’ll be reading it. My initial subconscious response to, “I need to write a new blog post,” was, “Just do it tomorrow!” which is silly considering it will never be tomorrow, but it will always be now. If I had a dollar for every time I put something off until tomorrow and didn’t end up doing it at all, I’d be wearing a smoking jacket in an expensive, wood-paneled study, swirling a 21-year old single malt around a snifter, and dictating every word of this blog to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, which means there’s no reward for putting off taking action. Other than our thoughts, the most powerful tool we have is right now. This very moment, you, me, the lady next to me drinking a peppermint hot chocolate, the president of the United States, the homeless guy begging for change next to the 50th Street 1 Train station, Elon Musk, and the inmate on death row have the same opportunity: to make the most of now. The biggest obstacles to making the most of now are yesterday and tomorrow; past and future; what happened and what could happen.

Out of the Now and Into the Past and Future

       Time is such an abstract concept that don’t even try to wrap my head around it. What I know about for sure is the power of right here, right now. To dwell on past or future is to cost ourselves the opportunity of the present. When I was in Tennessee last week, I met a very pretty girl at a restaurant. We had a fun, lengthy conversation about food and bourbon (two of my favorite things), said our goodbyes, and parted ways. The entire time, a little voice in the back of my head was whispering, “Ask her for her number,” but every time, I responded, “There’s no way she’s going to give it to you – you’re only here for two days.” The next night, fate decided I should have a second chance, so she came running across the room at a random bar, hugged me, and struck up a conversation. Here was my train of thought:

“Dude, get her number!”

“What if she says no? Besides, you’re leaving after your presentation tomorrow anyway. There won’t be an opportunity to hang out.”

She went back to her friends and we continued on with our nights, but as I put on my jacket to leave, she came back and asked what I was doing the next day. She was giving me every opportunity to get her number, but my head was too in the future to notice:

“It’s getting late and I’ll be so tired tomorrow morning if I stick around. Plus, she probably doesn’t even like you.”

I explained to her that I had to drive an hour for my presentation the next morning, but she gave me another opportunity: “I’m off work tomorrow, maybe I’ll come watch you perform.”

In case you lost track, she had given me at least four opportunities to get her phone number, including the previous night. At this point, I had to ask her, right?

“That’s a long drive just to see me present. Plus, it’s early in the morning and I’m leaving right from there to go back to Ohio.”

Facepalm.

If I had a dollar for every time I have facepalmed myself while thinking about this exchange, I’d be wearing an invisibility cloak and hunting endangered lions on the plains of Africa while dictating every word of this blog via cranial implant to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, so it’s obvious that kicking myself over past events isn’t exactly moving me toward lavish, morally questionable safaris. In that moment, I was subconsciously basing my decision not to get her number on past situations where I had failed to get phone numbers and had my ego bruised, and also on a potential future situation that wasn’t guaranteed to happen. How could I know whether or not she’d give me her number? Instead of being in the now and listening to what my subconscious was telling me to do, I was stuck thinking about what could happen instead of what was actually happening. We became Facebook friends (a consolation prize), hugged, and parted ways. Instead of taking control, I shifted my consciousness out of the moment and put control over the situation into her hands. As I left, I remember thinking to myself, “I hope she comes tomorrow.” She didn’t, and it was because I chose to live in the past and future instead of living in the moment. Was she really trying to give me a cue to get her number? I can never know for sure, but I do know I can learn from this and stop facepalming myself when I think about it.

Stop Facepalming Yourself

       Fun fact about facepalms: if done properly, they hurt. Facepalming is painfully metaphorical for what happens when we live in the “what-ifs” of the past and future. When I think “What if?” in regards to this phone number situation, I imagine all the fun I could’ve had with a pretty cool girl, thus leading me to another mental facepalm:

“David, you’re so stupid. You should’ve asked for her number and invited her to your presentation. It could’ve been so fun! Instead you had to be a big IDIOT and leave!”

When I talk to myself using this tone, it doesn’t exactly generate any warm, fuzzy feelings. What this self-talk is actually doing is taking me out of the moment – the same thing that happened at the bar. When we spend now dwelling on past what-ifs, shouldas, and could’ve-beens, and future what-ifs, that-won’t-works, and I-can’ts, we take our attention away from the what-can-I-do-nows. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the past or future as long as it’s working in your favor now. Past events are opportunities to learn from and positive possible future events act as goals. Right now is an opportunity, but so are past events and future goals.

The past is just a series of former nows that we can use to learn from in

The present. Because decisions we made in past nows have led to now, that can only mean what we do now creates

The future. Just like now was yesterday’s future, tomorrow’s future is also going to be now. Yet another opportunity.

Take what you learned from past nows, do something now, and in future nows, learn from what you do with your current now and keep taking action. The next time I’m faced with a situation like I was in Knoxville, I’m going to re-direct my thoughts to the opportunity of now and do something about it. No more facepalms. Just NOWs.

What About Now?

       The next time you feel angry, sad, stressed, tired, self-conscious, nervous, etc., check your thoughts. Chances are they’re focused on the past or future and not the opportunity you have available to you now. Try it the next time you’re stuck in traffic and thinking about your boss yelling at you for being late or all of the things you could be doing, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you’re about to give a big presentation and thinking about forgetting parts, getting laughed at, or failing to make the impact you want on your audience, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you have an opportunity to ask someone out on a date, but you’re thinking about how they might say no and looking foolish, realize you’re missing out on now. Catch these thoughts and say, “Yeah, but what can I do now? How can I make now the best now until the next now?” Isn’t it silly to think, “I can’t wait until the next time I’m bored, pissed off, or way too nervous to do something,”? By leaving the now we make these outcomes inevitable. What do you have? All that exists in your life right now. Now ask, “How can I transform now into what I want?”

If I had a dollar for every time a past now led up to my present now, I would have the exact dollar amount I do right now, sitting in a Starbucks typing on my Macbook about my hypothetical manservant Javier while the song “This Moment” by Janine and the Mixtape coincidentally plays over the speakers (Seriously. You can’t write this stuff. Okay universe, I’m listening). This is my now. How can I make it the best now until the next now?