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Almost every print book that is out on the market today is designed for an outdated system.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.

A lot of people write to find out how they can travel like me. “Where in the world are you today,” many will ask. While my first response is to share my tips for trips so they can have a similar lifestyle, there’s something else they need to know first. This craving to escape it all isn’t serving them. Moving cross-country or traveling Europe for months will not solve all of the deep questions my friends have about their position in the world. Trust me, I’ve done it.

One nugget of wisdom I would send myself back in time is, “Everything is fine the way it is right now. There’s no need to pick up or go anywhere until you figure a few things out.” I spent too much time checking excursions off of my bucket list to notice the real problem with my life was me. Understanding my appreciation of culture with environment only developed over trial and error that in retrospect I’d give anything to do over. Now I tell my friends nothing is better than the place they are because it’s where they are.

Master Getting The Most Out Of What You Have

Mastering the challenge of gaining a new perspective will prepare them for the biggest challenge in experiencing something new. There’s no need to buy that $1,200 ticket to Australia if they aren’t already creating a desirable life for themselves at home. It didn’t feel like I’d really gotten the benefit of traveling until I did it solo because that’s where my perspective was forced to change. Whether they realize it or not, traveling with friends is only an extension of what they’re already doing at home. That’s an important factor.

Meet New People

When I say new that means far outside of your current social circle. By practicing the art of story listening I’ve been enchanted in my interactions with anyone willing to share a bit of their history with me, whether domestic or international. Creating conversations with random strangers isn’t enough since the element of a deeper connection happens when time is spent carefully paying attention to culture and surroundings. By harnessing their own style here, the process naturally engages their mind for richer experiences local or abroad.

Pickup A Good Book

Escaping the grind with a book of any type is a gift few have the attention span to enjoy. If they find themselves caffeinated to the point of intense concentration, an escape into a travel short story, classic novel or historical writing will free the boundaries they place on themselves through ordinary weekday existence. Book reading is the ultimate form of story listening in a separate context and expands the mind into a fantasy without the time or money it takes to travel large distances.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Become An Influencer

Introverts don’t have to be super social to be an influence in their own unique ways. By becoming part of an existing social group, the pressure of being the center of attention is gone. This opens them up to challenging others in the group to share who they are through stories. Of course extroverts are loud but does that make them effective? Are they currently creating a buzz around what they value in life? All of us seem to be on the journey of finding likeminded individuals. If my friends seek a new class of people then adopt qualities like those they wish to meet. Traveling to an exotic location will only offer more of the same if they aren’t prepared to manifest this law of attraction.

Take A 36 hour Road Trip

Crowd funding is one of my dark secrets in travel. Finding a group of awesome adventurers through the former strategies to take part in their journey creates an out of routine experience at a third the cost. The best part is there’s no limit to where they can go once the mind is free. Get out of the mindset that 10 hours is too far to drive. It is not unreasonable to fly to New York City for a weekend. By traveling in short 36 hour snapshots I’ve seen a large amount of the USA which gave me the courage to complete my international journeys since.

Your city doesn’t suck anymore because you understand that the place you live is where someone else longs to visit. Somewhere else in the world they read a short story fantasizing about experiencing the life you try to escape. Hedonic adaptation creates a warm place for you to preserve your happiness. We slowly adapt to our situation in order to survive so the things that are unique fade away quickly with routine and this is often mistaken for complacency. Try on the new perspective and ask your city out on a date. You’ll be surprised at what’s hiding right next door.

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.

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.

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.

 

The old saying goes something like, “People will not remember you for what you did or said, but how you made them feel.” How are you impacting every person around you? Do you take the time to truly connect with friends? Family members? Coworkers?

A few years ago I attended a funeral and listened carefully to what was said about the gentleman who had passed. Tears of joy, anger and sadness swept across the room with a series of stories that took place. This got me to thinking about my own life and what others will say about me when I pass on.

To the drawing board. This year I’ve compiled a 2013 goals list. In this list I have reminded myself to not wait to start living. When weaving my life story I’d like to leave back a positive impact on others but also see how best I can stick to my mission statement throughout the year. Over the course of life it is not what you do in a single moment but that which you do consistently that will bring the happiness and success you seek.

Have you ever thought about writing your own eulogy? A mission statement in many ways is similar, except of course used under very different circumstances. Think about taking some time to be intentional about asking yourself questions that will inspire your growth. It’s painful to think that we will not always be remembered for what counts if we are too involved in our own situations that we cannot be outwardly focusing on creating positive feelings in others.

Humans are hard wired to be social beings. Interdependence is an important part of survival even though we seem more disconnected than ever lately with the wave of technology. Stand out and make a difference to someone new, one soul at a time.

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.

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.

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?