Mindfulness Warps Brain

“It prevents arguments.”

This was the first of a long list of benefits my friend Vince experienced after meditating once a day for a year. At first he wasn’t convinced there was much of a difference. A “test” for him to see if he could follow something through.

Meditation and mindfulness have become cliche.

Frankly a bit annoying to hear people talk about. But you have to respect someone who spent every day doing a repetitive task. Like your gym obsessed buddy or BFF who puts in the work then has muscle to show for it, Vince has warped his own mental muscle that he shared during our chat.

Here Is Your Brain On Zen

  • Relaxed: After spending the time to meditate, Vince reported feeling relaxed with improved breathing.
  • Accomplished: It was the achievement that kept him driving forth to the finish line.
  • Proactive: Meditation gave him the ability to talk himself out of an anxious state which reduced tense moments and increased happiness. It’s easier to identify moments where he needs a moment to step away.
  • Focused: Easier to capture the mind when it starts to wander too far from center or slow it down when it races.

Hearing this, I had tons of questions.

Did he plan on continuing this daily ritual? Was he ever nervous about skipping a day? Wouldn’t being anxious about a daily ritual would cause waves throughout his life even though that habit was meditation?

Vince is still as reactive as before his mindfulness practice but is now better at recognizing it. He can choose to do something about it. Mindfulness opened up choice for him without creating a new concrete pattern.

“I don’t feel nervous about reverting [to my pre-mindful state]. After learning the routine, I can always spend a few minutes to get away and do some breathing exercises and focus exercises.” – Vince

 

Many say that meditation is a marathon not a sprint. Coming from a guy who ran the marathon it sounds to me like taking a moment to chillax is something we all can take advantage of in our day.

Whether you choose to use an app, record your own guided meditation, rent-a-mantra or simply breathe in some free air; mindfulness is ready to warp your mind, too.

Every fall you could do something that would make most minimalists cringe.

Order a new phone and/or computer yearly, whether or not critics deem the upgrades significant, to save money on something that enhances your life every day. Scary isn’t it?

By creating a master inventory of everything I owned it appeared to me that the technology I used frequently really racked up mileage while the rest spent their time hibernating. The challenges with average minimalist thinking is that it discourages us from owning too much at a given time. Some believe that this includes going after everything on the cheap.

The name “minimalist luxury lifestyle” is self explanatory and opens you up to the potential you have to relieve yourself from pressure to run your life off of DOS with outdated tech.

How do you upgrade every year for nearly free?

By not letting your mobile service provider karate chop your wallet. On average your phone will cost anywhere from $600-800 retail but if you follow my strategy there’s a chance to weigh in around $450.

A value you would not get if you trade in your phone. Hint: They only give you about $200. Check the math on your own if you’re skeptical. If you want to minimize your losses here, you can follow my strategy:

  1. Purchase your phone outright. Nowadays many mobile users are on payment plans or “leases” with their service providers since the land of free phones with 2 year agreements are gone. What your friends at the cell phone store might not tell you is that you can purchase the phone and then sell it on your own.
  2. Assess the market value. Cross-checking eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and any number of online marketplaces to buy and sell goods will get you the data you need. After activating your new phone put in the make & model of the old phone into search, i.e.: “iPhone 7 Plus Space Gray AT&T 128GB”. Then record the highest, lowest and median values.
  3. Cash that bad boy in. Patience is key here. From data I have over the past 10 years of selling over the internet there’s a rule that everything sells, in time. Be honest, CYA and stick to cash or proven mediums like eBay.

There’s a window to minimize loss during upgrades:

  • Used Androids/iPhones lost the last of their value 3-5 months after a new product launch before declining.
  • Technology can easily bottleneck otherwise productive people. The worst case scenario is waiting for things to load while you’re already cramming in too many calendar invites into the schedule.

Yes, per policy, I will be upgrading to the new iPhone 2, 3G, 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 6, 6S, 7 Plus, X because it is the one thing that enables me to connect, create and collaborate all in one place so it better be lightning fast.

(Updated October 27, 2017)

Natural light floods even the back corners of Cuvee while mindless citizens are absorbed in their cell phones. There is a quiet buzz about the place. Or are those my own thoughts consuming my mind? There isn’t room for the mind-numbing norm and my creative sparks. Both simply can’t exist together, and I can sense the battle; it’s going to be an all-out duel. The feeling that’s running through my body is familiar. It means I’m about to create magic. As I sip on the first nitro coffee I’ve ever tasted, it hits me. I’m spitting out ideas as my girlfriend bounces back. We’re playing a metaphorical game of tennis.

Idea. Additional idea. Suggestion to make a good idea great. Another idea.

What’s just taken place is a regular occurrence for me. Creating new ideas takes as little as seeing a flyer on the streets of Austin or hearing about a news story through Facebook. It’s happened while walking through the mall, and I’ve experienced it during late-night drives across the state. Care to know my secret?

I’m not stuck in the Matrix.

It’s easy to be fooled by what’s in front of us. Despite the ridiculous news stories we see daily, society is really quite intelligent. We’re trained to go to college, get a decent paying job, settle down with a spouse, invest in a house in the suburbs, and travel once we retire and the kids have moved out. How often have any of us questioned this norm? Let’s take a moment to realize that our lives are planned out for us from the beginning.

I hope you’re angry reading this. Nothing would be better than you feeling ready to flip your computer or tablet. Wait just a moment, though. There’s a solution. Now that you know we’re all bred into this Matrix, it’s time to escape it.

Imagine living a life plump with experiences like I described at the beginning of the post. All you have to do is break down your self-limiting beliefs. What’s the real reason you can’t travel in your twenties and thirties? With crowd-sourced travel, Go Fund Me campaigns, cheap hostels, and the beauty of the Internet, I don’t see one. Throw your fear out the window.

Explain why you’re taking an entry-level job you hate. Aren’t you creative enough to concoct a new, better way for your industry to function? Of course you are, so let’s ditch the low self-esteem.

You’re starting to get the idea. Each of us can live outside of the Matrix. The only thing stopping us is… us. I’ll be honest- stepping outside of the Matrix is scary. It takes a great deal of faith in yourself, a determination to succeed, and just a little bit of crazy. I’ve pulled up the curtain and exposed the puppet masters. When you’re ready to write your own script, step outside the Matrix and join me.

The decision you’ve made to travel the world is the best decision you’ll ever make. The investment you’re making is an investment in yourself, and there’s no better way to spend your time or your money. Did you tick off your boss by taking this time off? Good. You are your own boss now. The world is in front of you, and you get to decide how your story goes. Spend wild nights partying at local bars until 2:00 A.M. Create your own personal oasis at the local park where you can focus on reading, writing, or just simply being in the moment. Meet others who are traveling, and strike up conversation with those who live in the area. The uneasiness will soon fade away, and you’ll feel like you’ve been doing this forever.

I know you are a mixture of emotions, and you feel like the blender is on high speed. You are excited, scared, unsure, anxious, ready, and not ready all at once. The ticket is booked, your arrangements are made, and it’s almost go-time. You are about to embark on an incredible journey. It’s a journey that will continue as long as your soul remains eager and your mind remains open.

I remember the first time I traveled in college. It was only possible during that phase of our lives because we were able to pull together and take crowd-funded trips. Once college ended and the real world hit, that adventurous side seemed to slip away for so many. But not for you, First Time Traveler. You are different. Something inside you stirred around until you couldn’t ignore it anymore. As uncomfortable as you feel, you also know you’ve made the right choice.

As you await your flight, train, or ship, think about what you ate for breakfast yesterday. You probably can’t remember, can you? Can you think of an awesome experience you once had that left you feeling fulfilled and curious? Of course you can. You’re about to add to that group of experiences. Open your eyes, your ears, and your mind, because your adventure is here.

Cheers,

Devin

I broke up with my things because they spent more time in a cardboard box than out on a shelf soaking in rays of glorious sunshine.

We broke up because I didn’t even know who they were anymore. The great times we had were distant memories but it’s not a sad story. We are okay being “just friends”. Things were once a big part of my life. They are responsible for the reason I have moved on.

The reason I know that I deserve better now.

How did I start the process of minimizing?

By taking inventory.

Minimizing first includes understanding what you have. It started on a spreadsheet where all of my possessions lived in my space and on the page.

I listed:

  • What it cost me to purchase the item.
  • Why I owned everything.
  • How much equity I had in each.

The shocking discoveries:

  1. Duplicates: There were repeats of my things that I’d accumulated “just in case”… bye!
  2. Debt: Things depreciate quickly. If I’m not using items and they’re not worth selling to anyone else, why are they here?
  3. Used: When I bought preowned there was greater preserved value. Retail is the premium paid for being attached to breaking up with things not meant to be.

Sorting my inventory reset the troubled past of my current belongings then shaped the future for new things to enter my life. It is mandatory for me to purchase used and avoid duplicates to stay out of being debted emotionally and financially to my things.

This accelerated my minimalist journey to warp speed.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

It’s become nothing out of the ordinary for me to move every year. Sometimes to find a more economical living situation or simply out of boredom. There was a moment while I packed up my belongings to move this week when realized I don’t even know what things I own anymore.

Many of the things I do own are reminders of experiences had. Gifts from friends, a photo album from college, an $8 bull horn from Amazon that has brought endless aggravation to neighbors and countless laughter for friends. I’ve watched roommates move in and out of my place and am always surprised by the amount of things they would cart in and out. Moving trucks the size of semis will soon be the norm for our consumer driven society.

When are we taught that the way to experience life is to purchase things?

I realized how little is necessary as I packed everything I needed in the trunk of a Hyundai Accent for a 30 day cross country trip. Living as a minimalist in material possessions allows me to live life as a maximalist because I have the ability to fund experiences. Ones that give me stories to share with you here.

After moving from place to place it caused me to rid myself of things that weren’t useful. It fueled further travel where weekend trips turned to week long trips and from weeks to months. The things I had a long distance relationship with back at home were lonely and we didn’t talk much anymore.

I’m single from things now with my arms wide open to experiences, and I’m never turning back.

It may not seem possible for some women to take the plunge into the unknown by traveling alone. Fear begins to manifest for the “chick on the road” when what-if speaks louder than adventure.

What if something bad happens to me because they know I’m traveling alone?

For Jamie, Amber and Joann, solo travel is more than just an option; it’s a necessity. Each of them has taken on their own journeys in different parts of the world on similar missions. The inherent risks were worth the reward to forget about waiting for someone else to give them permission or travel with them.

Amber and Joann struggled with feeling safe while they were away from home for the most common reasons anyone would. Traveling on a budget with nothing but a backpack means picking places that may not be in the safest areas, taking public transportation, tackling bears or surfing the urban streets. These women have shown resilience, courage and overcame their fears in a way many of us will never know. During Jamie’s upcoming trip across the country she will have times on the road where situations unlike those on a normal weekend playing a night on the town or meeting up with friends will come about. The difference is, she’s taking a risk for a reason; to live a life like no one else.

During my travel in hostels I spent time with a lot of female international travelers that thought it was crazy that American’s were so conservative with their adventures. In an interview with Amber we discussed some of her initial challenges last year when she chose to drive across the United States by herself. Most of them were tackling the solitary confinement we get into after being alone for an extended period of time. Then on to spending time out at bars or the mechanics of daily life that we all risk some type of danger.

Travel is important to them because they learned key things about life, people and self. I can relate to those experiences deeply because of my adventures but there’s another level of respect there about these women that are a level-up from the norm. Joann left after college to travel Europe, coach surf, work for families as a nanny and use a very small amount of funds to do it. Amber also spent time doing piecemeal work in order to fund her new album while gaining insight into new creative outlets. Jamie started a business helping others travel the world from her home in Alaska from a vision of a world that breaks free from the standard tourist mindset.

If you’re as inspired about their stories as I am please take some time to check out and support Amber’s new album on Indiegogo launching this year. A project that sparked simply because of her solo journey. Stay tuned for more information on Jamie’s new Alaskan travel business and Joann’s medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Any woman out there reading this that wants to travel but is waiting for someone to embark on that journey with them let me encourage you to take small steps to take the plunge yourself. Amber, Joann and Jamie are strong examples contrary of the American conservative (and somewhat sexist) view that there are just some things women shouldn’t do. These three examples are more than enough to give you a light push over the edge into the unknown because of their incredible fortitude.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of every day life. Too easy. In fact I’d say this took over my mental state for years during and after college. Striving to come up with the next best thing in business and life. Blah, blah, blah… everywhere on the internet we read about how we need to be more mindful and in the moment.

BUT WHEN IS THE LAST TIME WE DID ANY OF THESE THINGS? NEVER.

It is cool to read about how our lives could change. We move on to answering a myriad of notifications our friendly technological lives demand. I spend some time learning how to hack my growth and development instead of spending time reading.

Beginning with an honest assessment of my mind state during a three month period.

A few things surfaced:

  • There’s a state that I identified with as my “natural habitat” where I’ll let my mind wander off to whatever distant land it desires.
  • After this begins instead of stopping it I’d instead encourage the digression to seek deeper meaning from every movement, decision and neural pathway that activated.
  • New revelations about the reasons behind my actions or inhibitions became obvious.
  • External dialogue was necessary for making these discoveries concrete.

Since my mind receives a lot of punishment for getting out of line, the freedom was glorious when I finally said to it, “Go ahead and wander.”

A trusted mentor was key in helping me to understand the different stages of processing new information that lends itself to action. There’s a period of time where the overload phase lead to my paralysis. I was inputting too much new content to have a use for it. Then, spending too much time analyzing possible outcomes to take action on any particular one.

It is a conundrum of sorts to know too much because the more complicated the understanding is the less likely we are to take the risks necessary to tackle those short or even long term gorillas. In my natural habitat, I tend to become curious on a particular topic, research it until I can’t take anymore, shut down for a period of time to process, revisit to seek potential outcomes then nine times out of ten shut down the idea altogether.

WOW THAT WAS A WASTE! OR WAS IT?

This is part of the discovery phase that I’ve learned myself to get into over and over again. Being a 20-something means that this is thumbs up behavior not something to be afraid of.

However, there’s training to left to do so I lighten the load more on my research phase so that pining through potential outcomes takes much less time.

A friend recently advocated the importance of quitting early and often when there’s no viability for a new paradigm. There’s a lot that applied to my understanding of the natural habitat concept and how I’m retraining myself.

Your friends and mentors are key to helping you reflect on you in your natural habitat. Try it.

These days college isn’t the only place you need to dive in to projects face first. Getting down and dirty with attention marathons are common now with computer based careers. In the new Global Economy knowledge work has been booming since the early 21st century. According to Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, its impact has left most of us with desk jobs making 61% less than the medium household income ten years earlier. Ouch. Now we are all struggling to keep up with the job market changes by being linchpins. Working remotely has presented some interesting challenges this year that I’ve learned to kill with these strategies below.

TIME TO STEP UP YOUR GAME

Tea & Coffee – Mmm. Not only delicious but gets you to rock star status. I brew my own fresh ground coffee at the house and drink it black to avoid sugar crash. When strapping the rocket propulsion of coffee to your back it helps to include your new best friend, green tea. Throw back a cup to enjoy L-theanine. Ever heard of it? The caffeine in coffee has a tendency to give about anyone the jitters until your green tea comes to the rescue. Sipping tea throughout the afternoon keeps you relaxed and happy.

Exercise – Figured you’d turn up your nose at this one but the critics don’t lie. Falling in love with my Apple Watch was a huge help in providing a platform to measure progress. It is a reminder when my activity levels are lower than usual which inevitably affect productivity. Use your Fitbit or (cringe) some archaic method to keep a record of active calorie burn. Accountability helped me to maintain 45 minutes of cardio per day to hack my brain’s tendency to go sedentary. Sitting at a computer for hours at a time destroys will power. PS: Tracking fitness figures on a spreadsheet helped keep me motivated even for a previous non-believer.1-3-5 Task Strategy – A lot of GTD experts recommend writing in a task diary to keep track of things you’d like to get done during the week. This helps keep focus on the big picture if you can stick to it. Months ago I ran across an iPhone app that sports the 1-3-5 Method. Almost instantly I deleted the app because it was more effective for me to write it down on a sticky every day. You’ll be an expert in no time: choose 1 big task to crush, 3 medium ones and 5 minuscule. Make sure the big one is a massive high level gorilla. It’s easy to lose track of time during the day, feel mega productive and have nothing to show for. Break the cycle.

Pomodoro Technique – A good friend of mine became addicted to the digital ticking sound this thing makes. He says, “It reminds me there’s work to finish. If anyone or anything interrupts me; I reset it religiously and give them a dirty look.” It’s powerful when you have to punish yourself with another 25 minutes of work. By taking 5 minutes breaks between mini crush sessions it helps me sustain long bouts of work when I need it most. Eat the frog first thing in the morning by tackling the most disgusting task on your list with this timer.

Meditation – This helps most in small bursts for me since I’m not a big meditation nut. When focus starts to wane mid-day I do simple breathing exercises like ones you can find on Headspace or guided meditations from The Power Of Now. Take short breaks from whipping your play starved mind into submission. When boot camp isn’t working to focus I step away from my work; everyone tells you this but have you tried it?

Diet – Listing this last because for most including me finds this least enjoyable. In the absence of exercise the introduction of good fat to your diet will act as great brain fuel. I cook with coconut oil and sprinkle meals with MCT, nuts and vegetables. Stay away from the whites: sugar, salt, dairy and flour. Later in the evening bananas help by adding tryptophan to my sleepy noggin. My meals are small and frequent. Working from home increased my health because these habits are easier to maintain. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t perfect it. Give it your best shot.

Electronic books (or eBooks for fellow nerds) are an awesome thing aren’t they? Except for the fact that I’ve now become a regular reader of something to the effect of 10-20 books at a time. It’s no laughing matter when I look at my Goodreads profile and see how pitiful life has become. With more pressure to be the best we can in our respective fields there’s lots of content to consume with no one to steer you in the right direction.

Historically books were primary sources of information. With the dawn of the Information Age it’s nothing new to find answers for your deepest problems shoved in your face through “15 Surprising Ways To” blog posts, advertisements or you name it. Successful people read all the time but slowly we see traditional books replaced by the ever changing condensed forms of media we consume by the minute. And I do mean by the minute. There’s a reason I read so many non-fiction books at once.

attention span of a 5 year old

Being an information addict has it’s disadvantages. Trying to intelligently sift through different forms of media leaves me to the wolves by robbing any focused moment with another opportunity to read about a new area of study. Intoxicating as it is, this can be an advantageous thing for reasons I’ll explain later.

books used to be about quotas

Almost every print book that is out on the market today is designed for an outdated system. Books needed to justify their size with a minimum page count eliciting long extraneous rants and examples. When I catch onto their overuse of case studies in a book I’ll immediately speed through the paragraphs searching only for anecdotal quotes to save in my writing journal. Storytelling is a beautiful art form but in my experience few non-fiction books get the hint. Send me a few quotes from the book or download a summary to get the gist. You don’t always have to dive in head first to get the benefit of the author’s research.

Blame it on social media

I get lazy sometimes. Facebook and Twitter have me bug eyed looking for the next article or topic to read. It gets unproductive but in the grand scheme of things a concentrated effort to intake a variety of content gives me unexpected advantage. With Google turning into an externalization of consciousness for our age it is important to learn the associations on where information is easily accessed. Tearing through short blasts of articles leaves me at least with the recollection of where it was first seen.

Interactions build strong connections

Reading multiple books on a similar subject interact to make a concept concrete in my mind. At least that’s what I tell myself as I pick up a new book. When trying to regain my footing in a theory I’ll often read the first paragraph of each chapter to dissect where the author will focus. “What’s possible” changes quickly in the business, psychology and hacking world so in order to stay abreast of human behavior patterns it takes the combination of long form and tweet form for career longevity.

If you open a book and follow through to the end every time then bravo. If you’re like me, then feel comfort in knowing you’re not alone and speed reading a library full of books is the way the cookie has to crumble in our fast paced society. Utilize a writing journal and all of your naughty reading habits will not be in vain.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.” – E.O. Wilson

This quote hit me hard this morning as I began my morning study. The internet has changed the game by giving us access to more than ever in history. Our capacity for filtering useful information to put into practice is suffering. Is it time to learn how to learn all over again?

I do the internet differently on purpose.

Social media is full of cop killing, election hating, racism, and entertainment laden blah. It’s my goal to make my public facing side a breath of fresh air. Humanity.

Because I watch out for my head space I create the feeling of freedom.

My internet is a place for sharing meaningful information to improve quality of life.

 

“Age of Misinformation” – Jamie Brauer

Few Of Us Actually Ship

 

We are fundamentally designed not to step out of our comfort zones. Biologically we are engineered to sustain life and comfort as we know is best fit. It’s no wonder that we tend to stick to the patterns that have brought us reasonable results in the past without straying off path. Over the past few months my meditations have been focused around identifying areas where I may have become stagnant. At points I become angered at the fact that my own mind will prevent me from stepping off the ledge, so to speak, with a new endeavor or project.

Is life meant to be a wasteland of incomplete dreams? There’s a tipping point at play when I learned about leadership and it’s always right after the point we give up. A colleague advocates the “212 theory”, wherein water boils at 212°F and not a degree less. Because of the state of water in normal ambient conditions, it will wax and wane between a simmer and a boil. That last and final degree is the most difficult for humankind to accomplish but is integral to completion.

Few of us actually ship

“Shipping” is a term frequently used in the personal development community to describe the moment in time that a person finishes their decision making process and executes the plan. Comfort zones define the limitation for us to ship in various aspects of life. These ideas touch more than just the business world but can be applied to personal endeavors.

A documentary I watched recently called Man On Wire interviewed a Frenchman named Philippe Petit whose life dream became to cross the twin towers in New York City at 1,368ft above ground with no safety net. Although few in the world will experience a feat of this magnitude, it stood out to me that his most defining moment during his journey was stepping out onto the wire from a construction platform they had attached it to. Faced with a 200ft walk to the other tower he knew that once he ‘shipped’, he would be flirting with death. The reality is his exhilaration after a lifetime of preparation for this day became overwhelming and the police reported after he was arrested for trespassing that they could vaguely see him smiling upon first sight of the law enforcement.

Philippe’s life was dedicated to pushing the boundaries of his body and mind. This man knew nothing about comfort as we do and went against every molecule in his body designed to prevent him from subjecting himself to fatality. Even if a person pushes his or herself to 1% the amount Mr. Petit did, they will experience a new vigor of life that simply cannot be described in words. Redefine comfort zone.