How 365 Days of Mindfulness Warps Your Brain

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.

Minimalists Cringe at My Controversial Upgrade Policy

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.

If you’re interested in other simple hacks like this I talk more about them here.

(Updated October 27, 2017)

I Will Die on March 10, 2072

My estimated life expectancy is 84.54 years. That’s according to a rough calculation completed by a robot and backed by a friendly bit of science. It asked lifestyle questions then generated a fancy what if scenario around changing those habits. Compared to the average person I seem to be ahead in only a few categories.

Raw Nerdtastic Expectancy Data

• Lower Quartile: 77.00 years (75% chance you will live longer than this)

• Median Lifetime: 87.21 years (50% chance you will live longer than this)

• Upper Quartile: 95.21 years (25% chance you will live longer than this)

• If you do not drive, your life expectancy would be 0.37 years longer

• If you do not have any stress listed in the table, your life expectancy would be 0.57 years longer

• If you become a conditioning exerciser, your life expectancy would be 0.99 years longer

• If you consume all 5 types of food everyday, your life expectancy would be -0.00 years longer (I hope tacos are a food group because this number is definitely wrong)

• Having between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a day has maximized your life expectancy

• If all of the above choices are adopted, your life expectancy would be 1.79 years longer (oh goodie)

While working on my life plan a few months ago I thought it would be cool to use an expectancy calculator to add perspective. Everyone says it’s gone in a blink, but how close is it really? By no means do I expect this to be 100% accurate, but it’s simply fascinating to me to have a date when my century long carnival ride is finally over. Coming to terms with mortality puts my focus on gratitude. Enjoying the moments I have to slowly iterate each shift in course along the way.

Planning in decades is a technique I’ve used for a while. Thinking in large amounts of time while asking myself the question, “What is the theme?” gives a sense of comfort in understanding how the giant puzzle pieces fit together. The theme of my 20s is Discovery and Exploration, as I imagine yours may be as well. If not, rest easy; there will be some grand adventures in your future my friend.

My 30s are not defined and up until now this was a source of anxiety. This was misplaced emotion. Wherever you are in life look for the themes that already exist which brought you to the awesome today you marinate in. Therein lies clues to where your internal compass has led you thus far. All of us plan whether we intend to or not. What ports will you visit in your beautiful billion dollar yacht (yes I’m talking about your kick butt life) before a final sail into the horizon?

We Listen At 125 Words Per Minute

Listening is difficult because most of us are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful about 75% of the time. There are a lot of useful and useless things begging for attention throughout the day. It doesn’t help that the science behind how we absorb information is against us as well. Trust me, I’m no exception.

My insatiable curiosity for life naturally positions me for mass consumption. Hundreds of books that I’ve read leave me with a jumbled thoughts that tend to come out during strange times. “How can anyone possibly know that,” my friends remark after I come up with useless factoids about the world. One of my favorite things to blurt out is, “according to an article I read last week!”

In order to connect better with others and stimulate my creativity, I’m on a journey to improve my listening skills. We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. As you can imagine this causes a breakdown for those of us trying to get things done or hear a story. Immediately after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what he or she said. Long term, we only remember 20% of what we hear.

Those are pretty depressing statistics if you ask me. What about those of us who are listening to our podcasts and audiobooks on 3x speed? Are we doomed to retain less than twenty percent of those, too?

By implementing The Rule of Three in my information archiving system in Trello and note applications, I am able to record actionable nuggets from dialogue. Whether it be a conversation with a peer, TED talk or audio book there’s a few simple takeaways that help me to get the most out of invested time. Amplify your curiosity as a learner by focusing on three major points to clarify with your conversation partner or record in your journal.

Spend Money on Relationships, Not Experiences

Investing in relationships with other people is the single most important thing I’ve ever done. No traveling experience or material possession has brought me the same long lasting joy. When I look back at pictures of places I’ve been I remember what the mountain air smelled like, subtle tastes hidden in the food and rush from being a stranger in a new city. It’s a gift I’ve given to myself to relive those magic moments the rest of my life.

Coming from someone who has traveled 37 U.S. States and 12 countries in the past 3 years it doesn’t surprise me how travel is romanticized through social media. It’s a ton of fun. While there are still a lot of places on my list to visit I can confidently say I’ve “been there” on the pursuit of experiences.

In some earlier writings I talk about my flip-flopping between enjoying my isolation in nature to seeking social interaction in the city. There’s a certain tolerance for each traveler to have a variety of experiences based on their personality or simply timing. My own groove is somewhere in the middle of taking nature hikes to spending time in hostels making new friends. There’s one thing that the media hype surrounding travel lifestyles are selling to you: The unsettled feeling of missing out on life.

The reason I chose this photo is to demonstrate the type of marketing that is at play in making you feel like you’re not doing enough, not seeing enough and not being enough. While I am a huge fan of marketing it is still obvious to me that the pretty package of selling the romantic idea of experiences versus material possessions is simply another tactic to unsettle your soul. An easy hierarchy can help to simplify the order of priority I learned through traveling, buying and meeting.

Relationships > Experiences > Things.

When I look at the faces of the people I love there’s a deeper appreciation for all of the laughter shared together through all types of landscapes imaginable. Don’t let the world hide from you the beauty in meaningful connections with your peers. It will outlast any trip or mansion you strive to achieve in this world, I promise.

That’s Common Sense

It’s a played out thing to hear so often when someone views the actions of others being unlike their own. “That should be common sense.” Common sense doesn’t even seem clear to me how a theory so general of the world could be the basis for any knowledge we could assume someone else also has. Our ability to perceive, understand and judge things are all philosophically linked.

Common sense would say that it is not smart to buy things we can’t afford, do harmful drugs, binge drink and many other things that are detrimental to self-preservation. But what if I told you what may seem common sense to you is not common practice? Would it give you a little more patience with others that don’t see things the same way as you? Could it change your world? Influence others?

“Common sense is neither common nor sense.” – Jim Taylor

Things that distance us

A video I watched yesterday that intended to make a parody of situations where at first glance you’d think something different than what wasn’t obvious. One displayed a group of women out to eat lunch while a man pulls up in a convertible with what seems like an attractive blonde in the passenger seat. The woman was visibly perturbed. The camera pans to the man petting his bosses pedigree show dog with a comically long amount of blonde hair hanging from either side of its head. At the end of the clip were the words, “Don’t judge too quickly.”

All of these mechanisms of judgment result in creating a psychological distance between two people and decrease the amount of deep meaningful connection that is possible with vulnerability. What you think is common sense is not someone else’s common practice so give them the benefit of the doubt.

The world is counting on you to make a difference.

 

Collecting Material Possessions

People became skeptical when they learned about my trip. Many ask if I was escaping some sort of problem. It’s unusual to just pick up and drive across country by yourself with really no plan other than to explore. My answer was simple as I shared my story of seeing the old man in the RV, not wanting not to be my future. But the more I thought about life and the money we make. The things we do day-to-day that we consider important I started to realize something else.

Money to me has a much deeper meaning then it’s ability to buy time. First they say, you cannot “lifetime”. However, money gives us the freedom to enjoy certain aspects of life that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. We are taught from young to use money for the accumulation of material things. Which I personally have my own things that I collect, so who am I to judge?

I collect small things, onesie may not even notice. So small in fact that it takes a large amount of them to really make a difference. But as you start collecting these things and building them up, every new thing you collect becomes even more valuable and make sure life that much better. These things are what I call experiences.

Limited Cognitive Resources

Everyone is always figuring out ways to get more done in less time. One thing that stood out to me recently was President Obama’s popular productivity hack. You’ll notice that he only wears gray or blue suits. This is because he wants to reduce the amount of decisions he has to make on the things that can be automated in his routine. One of the many things he does to keep focused on what matters. Less small decisions means more time for the big ones.

This limited cognitive resources conversation sparked in one of the groups I’m in because of discussing meal preparation. My friend Chris talked about his experience making simple meals with chicken and broccoli to manage his time. It is a brilliant and simple solution to making the investment up front of deciding meals for the week and cooking them. Chris benefits from using his time wisely but this isn’t the only way.

A large amount of the hospitality economy in America benefits from our love of dining out. Studies on how our minds are changing revealed millennial’s saying cereal is too difficult to make. This is primarily because of the process needed to pour the cereal, get out the milk and clean up any spills or dishes afterwards. Sounds crazy to me at first glance.

I think simply blaming this on the “entitlement generation” is to overlook the positive result of this fundamental shift. What if I told you that the millennial’s are simply acting as time economists? Advancements are causing us to look at productivity on a whole new level. By outsourcing the responsibilities of our food harvesting and preparation, we are opening a new world of time creation in our careers. In my opinion the line between work and life balance has meshed with one another in a new way. The masses are no longer responsible for maintaining gardens to grow their food so they are free to fully leverage their new found time to focus on the larger issues of social altruism.

My Internet Is Different Than Most

“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.

People Are So Different In Their Natural Habitat

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.