Conversation, Silence, or Violence

I heard a brilliant phrase on a podcast last week coined by Alan Levinovitz. He and Joe Rogan were discussing the binary and divisive nature of American politics, and to illustrate Alan’s non-binary ways of thinking about major issues, he stated he feels “politically homeless.”

I couldn’t relate more.

When people ask if I’m liberal or conservative, I have no fucking clue what to say. Depending on the topic, I might lean left or I might lean right.

My centrist nature and love for nuance has resulted in liberal friends unfollowing me on social media, yelling and crying at me in the midst of a disagreement or debate, and people genuinely treating and speaking to me as if I am an immoral person.

My centrist nature and love for nuance has also resulted in conservative friends questioning my intelligence, claiming my emotions will forever cloud any objective ideas, and people genuinely treating and speaking to me as if I am an idiot.

Win win?

This is not to say that I deserve not to have people disagree with me. I’m an idiot when it comes to most things, so I know the world is doing something right if several people disagree with my words and ideas.

Whether a person leans more left or more right on an issue doesn’t really concern me. I don’t think we should care about what a person believes, so much as how they came to and process that belief.

As my ideas and logical/emotional processes have developed over the years, the scariest thing to me has been this: I hate how disagreements on major political and social issues change the way we see even our closest friends. I include myself in this phenomenon.

There’s a time and a place for everything; but it’s disappointing that fear of discomfort or debate or toxic FaceBook comment threads…make friends and family silent; holding their tongue so Grandma doesn’t start going off about Trump again.

I’m no expert (clearly), but it seems to me that the only path forward is true conversation. Listening to those who even vehemently disagree with you, being able to articulate where they are coming from, and learning from them–even if you don’t change your mind.

We all suffer from confirmation bias. We love talking to people and reading what we already agree with, further solidifying our deeply-held beliefs. We hate talking to people and reading what we disagree with, further solidifying our deeply-held beliefs.

This mediocre blog was not meant to attack any particular “side” or belief. However, this is a hill I’m willing to die on. We need more good-faith conversations. It’s between that, silence, or violence. I choose the former.

Free Experiences

Things that cost $0:

• calling a friend or relative

• complimenting someone

• sharing a laugh or conversation

• going for a walk

• reading and writing

My Religion

I can’t recommend jiu jitsu enough to people. Martial arts in general are fantastic for the mind, body, and soul; but here are the specific benefits of doing jiu jitsu which I have experienced in a short time:

• Your size, athleticism, gender, race, intelligence…do no matter. Each and every person starts at zero. If a 5 ft girl has been practicing for a year, and a 6 ft male football player just started, she beats him 100% of the time. The only way to get better is by putting in the time and effort.

• It is a perfectly visible, tangible, real-time example of the learning process.

  1. You start; terrified and clueless, aggressive and egotistic.
  2. You suck; flailing around like a chicken, losing to anybody and everybody. This happens for a while.
  3. You doubt; it feels like everyone else is getting better and you’ll never move an inch.
  4. You keep going; gaining momentum from small wins in class and asking questions. Everyone is kind and helpful to you because every higher belt was where you are now. Always remember that.
  5. You improve; one day, something clicks, or it’s someone else’s first day and you get to tap them because they’re clueless. You feel great but you don’t have an ego about it because you got destroyed thousands of times before this point. “The mat is where egos go to die.”
  6. Repeat steps 2-5.

• The guys and gals you roll with become your brothers and sisters. I’ve found that intense struggle and learning are Gorilla Glue for relationships. You learn from, teach, and try to kill those you share the mat with. They try to kill you too, and when you’re an inch away from death, you tap their shoulder, they let you go, and you do it all over again.

Look up local jiu jitsu gyms in your area. It’s scary and overwhelming and intimidating at first, but it will most likely be one of the greatest decisions you’ll ever make.

A Daily Reminder

Things you can’t control:

• what others do or say

• the weather

• the opportunities that come your way

Things you can control:

• what you do or say

• what you make of your environment

• your preparation when opportunities arise

Hating People

When you think long enough about it, hating others makes no sense. It can be incredibly fun to talk shit about people whose words or actions you disagree with, but hating a person poses a number of counter-intuitive problems.

  1. It does nothing to solve the problem. Do you actually care to make a change in the world? If so, does speaking poorly about a person behind their back expedite this change? It can, but only on rare occasions.
  2. Would you say what you’re saying if they were in the room with you? I’m not talking about criticizing authoritarian governments…you get it. I’ve met a ton of people who are quite witty and tough when their target is not around, but then become a mild-mannered fluff ball when face to face with said person.
  3. Is there an actual utility to venting or bitching? No. I got this from No Ego: Studies have shown that “venting” does not actually help people blow off steam; instead, it creates a habit loop of complaining and rather than feeling better, we solidify our negative emotions by moving it to the forefront of our minds and the minds of others. Have you ever noticed that it’s 20 times easier to be negative or talk shit when someone else is doing it? Sometimes we even do it to connect or bond with others.

It’s difficult to break the habit. Incredibly difficult. But it can be done.

Look around and pay attention to how often you or your friends speak ill of others.

When someone spends a ton of time talking shit, it says more about them than whatever they’re complaining about.

Meaning

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl shares his captivating stories of surviving three concentration camps during World War II.

One of the many takeaways is this:

It is silly to ask the question What is the meaning of life? That is the question life is asking you each day. It is up to you to answer.

The purpose of our words and actions cannot be outsourced. Answer the question.

Pleasing People

What you can control:

Your motives, intentions, and the grace of your actions and words.

What you can’t control:

How others interpret and judge you based on what they think you mean.

Be open to feedback. Learn from others. But know that you will never please 100% of people 100% of the time.

What You Are

You aren’t what you’ve done a couple times.

You aren’t what you’d like to do, what you should’ve done, or what you could’ve done.

You aren’t what you say you will do.

You are what you do consistently.

You’re not fit because you went for a run. You are fit because you’ve consistently eaten clean and exercised for months.

You’re not a good friend because you tell your buddy how much they mean to you. You are a good friend because you’ve been there supporting them on a regular basis.

If you want to be something, do something consistently.

Back to Work

I wish some nights, we didn’t need sleep. Staying up and having half-drunk conversations is often too fun and memorable to sacrifice.

This weekend was glorious. Waterfalls. Soccer. Debate. Avatar. Grilling. Laughing.

All these things are available to us. We simply need to be resourceful and take advantage of them while they exist.

I’ll return. Now back to work.

Bag of Resistance Bands

One of the most difficult things about traveling–or even waking up in a bed other than your own–is the disruption of your routine.

Here in Asheville, while I have my computer, book, journal, and meditation apps…I find that completing my morning routine is much more strenuous. The atmosphere is not what I’m used to. My friends surround me and distract me in the most beautiful way. Instead of my gym, I have a bag of mediocre resistance bands.

Figuring it out and making time for the things one needs to do could detract from one’s experience; but I don’t think it has to.

Make time for these things. Understand they won’t be perfect. And understand that you’re sacrificing comfort and familiarity for a worthwhile experience.

Waking Up in Asheville

I can’t tell if this place is beautiful because the city is engulfed by gorgeous forests and mountains, or because my friends are here.

Waking up, drinking coffee, going for a run…The grass is dewy and the air is crisp.

We’ll stay up later than I’m used to, but we’ll also laugh more than I’m used to.

Call Your Friends

Today, I leave for North Carolina to visit one of my best buddies of 14 years.

I hope one day that’ll be 30 years. Then 40.

When you’re on your deathbed, you won’t be surrounded by your accomplishments, your money, or your wisdom. The only things in the room with you will be the connections you’ve made over your lifespan.

Visit your friends. Call them on the phone. Support them.

One day, you’ll wake up and realize 10 years went by and you haven’t seen the people you love.

You Don’t Need Discipline

A person works out 5 times a week, eats super clean, has a solid daily and weekly schedule, runs their own business, and reads 20 pages every day.

You could look at this person and think, “Wow, they’re incredibly disciplined.”

But in my quest for a more structured life over the years, I’ve realized the inaccuracy of that statement.

You don’t need to be disciplined to do great things every day, you just need enough discipline to build great habits so the work takes care of itself.

When was the last time you mustered up the motivation to brush your teeth? You just did it without thinking about it, right? We can automate anything to this degree.

When I wake up at 6am, do my morning routine, and go to the gym for two hours, it’s not because I am this disciplined God who is better than most people…It’s simply because I’ve been doing it for months and months and now it is built into my brain as a habit. It’s easier to do it than it is to think about doing it.

You could read that and go, “That’s nice Dillan. Good for you…” as if it was this effortless process.

Building strong habits is uncomfortable. We often doubt that we can really do it, especially before we see any real results.

Most people quit on developing a strong habit because the hill of discomfort makes them forget about how amazing it will feel when they get over the hill and the ball is just rolling by itself.

Get over that hill. Once you do, you won’t have to work nearly as hard.

5 for 2

In pursuing what I love, I think a common misconception is that I’m looking for an easy life.

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I don’t want that. That sounds awful.

I enjoy work. Solving problems, battling anxieties, and keeping it a meaningful and healthy part of my life…I welcome all of this in the name of what I’m passionate about.

The best feeling in the world to me is exhaustion I’ve earned; as opposed to exhaustion that was forced upon me. That’s what I want.

Here’s what I don’t want:

Getting paid two days of freedom for five days of pain. It’s not this dramatic for all of us, but selling your soul Monday through Friday to be compensated with Saturday and Sunday always struck me as a shabby deal.

I crave an internal locus of control. I don’t want the day of the week to dictate how I feel waking up in the morning.

If all goes well, you’ll never hear me say “Thank God it’s Friday!” again in my life.

My Feet Become the Sand

Why do we learn so much about ourselves when we spend quality time in nature? How does the stillness of the trees and running water answer so many questions we don’t even know we have?

I spent the weekend camping on a beautiful farm with a friend. After two nights by the fire and a day in the woods, we both admitted an extreme increase in levels of clarity–of our thoughts, of our fears, and of where we were in life.

One need not go camping in a tent to experience such mindfulness. Spending time next to trees, shrubbery, a garden, etc; you quickly realize that with no phone or outside distractions, you have no choice but to conquer the present moment.

The trees don’t care about your goals. The wind doesn’t care about your insecurities. All of your mistakes and anxieties…you are forced to realize that each and every one of them lives in your head. There is no escape. This can be terrifying to people, but it is unquestionably therapeutic, like a cleanse.

Spend more time in nature. Go for a walk. Be with your thoughts. As awful as they can be, looking for them will show you that they are merely ghosts.

The Right Questions

We think we need answers.

What we really need is to ask the right questions.

Reach out to me if you’re interested in discounted coaching sessions.

Responsibility, Accountability

Responsibility: “I made a mistake and it was my fault.”

Accountability: “I will learn from this mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

In order to make real progress, you need both, in that order.

Process > Events

“Process makes millionaires, and the events you see and hear are the results of that process.”

MJ DeMarco

It took me years to step out of my victim mentality in terms of all the things which weren’t going well for me in life. Everything changed when I realized:

• I’m not out of shape; I just have a poor fitness and eating system.

• I’m not lazy; I just have a poor productivity and management system.

• I’m not poor; I just have a poor money system.

There are certainly people with deeply-rooted issues which better habits won’t fix, but for the vast majority of us, our lives are a result of the strength of our processes.

From James Clear:

You don’t need to clean your room. You need good cleanliness habits so your room will always be clean.

You don’t need more money. You need better money habits so you’ll always have plenty in your bank account.

You don’t need to ‘get in shape.’ You need better health habits so you are constantly fit.

Your bank account, your body, your life…how it looks right now is simply the result of each and every decision you’ve ever made.

Reopening

Yesterday was my first day back at the gym and my martial arts gym since they’ve opened up. It was strange, exhausting, and incredibly uplifting.

I can’t get into the politics of whether or not it’s okay to be in groups of people right now. All I can say is that I’m grateful to see and workout with my comrades.

Even with our masks on, you could tell everyone was smiling ear to ear.

I Wanted

I wanted an author I respected to come on my podcast; so I sent him an email.

I wanted to be fit; so I drove to the gym several times a week.

I wanted to stay close with my friends; so I called them each month.

I wanted to create; so I started typing, hit record, then hit publish…

Everything you need is at your disposal.

Your Greatest Superpower

Yesterday, a friend and I caught up as we ate Chipotle outside of a few restaurants. We chatted and laughed and it began to rain; so we decided to continue our conversation under the umbrellaed tables. Then it started pouring.

The half-inch, Five Guys-branded umbrella could only protect us so much. We were soaked. Yet we continued our discussion about stories and art.

We laughed our asses off; not at the fact that we were casually sitting outside during a violent and ominous downpour, or the fact that we were 5 feet away from perfectly fine indoor seating…but because we were both wearing sunglasses.

My point is, the weather wasn’t an obstruction to our catching up. In fact, it made it a much more light-hearted and memorable experience. It wasn’t an inconvenience because we didn’t see it as one.

Your greatest superpower is your ability to manipulate your perception.

“Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean we have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves. Or whether we will tell one at all.”

Ryan Holiday

Top 5 Regrets

Collected from people on their deathbed. From least to most common.

  1. I wish I’d let myself be happier.
  2. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  5. I wish I’d lived life true to myself; not the one others expected of me.

A thought came to me yesterday.

One day, I will die. We all know this (or at least we say we know this).

But I got the chills when I went a level deeper and wondered, “Will I die on a Saturday or a Tuesday…?”

Will it happen in the morning or at night? Will I be in pain? What will I be wearing?

Obviously I won’t know the answers to these questions until it’s time, but these questions have answers. There will be a date and time where everything stops. There are an exact number of days until that date. 6,000? 14,000? 30,000? Whatever the number, there are only so many.

What if you had a countdown of that number? How would you spend your days until it hit zero? That’s your life. Live that shit.

Fat Friends

If your best friend becomes obese, you’re 57% more likely to do the same.

That’s insane.

It hasn’t been easy, but I attribute much of my success in the past few years to two things:

  1. Surrounding myself and becoming close with people who crave improvement and success; feeding off their energy, ideas, and support.
  2. Allowing relationships with stagnant, negative, and uninterested people, to fade.

“In time, you begin to think, act, and even look a little like those you hang out with. But not only do their attitudes and health habits influence you, their relative success does too. If the people you spend your time with are high achievers, their achievements can influence your own.”

Whatever You Want

Casey Neistat once said:

“In life, you can get whatever you want; but you can’t want whatever you want.”

Sounds a little confusing, but I love it.

I interpret it as: If you really actually truly honestly want something, and you pour your entire being into it, you can achieve it.

You say you want something–a million dollars, maybe. But do you really want it? Like really want it?

Maybe you do. Maybe you envision a world where you can pay all your bills effortlessly, live comfortably, travel the world, eat at incredible restaurants, support your family, and be financially free…

Or maybe you just think it’d be cool to have a million dollars.

If the purpose behind our goals and aspirations are hollow, we are bound to come up short.

If the purpose behind our goals and aspirations are deep within our bones, after x amount of time and x amount of hard work, we are bound to make them a reality.

To end, some real life examples:

JK Rowling – Harry Potter series denied by first 12 publishers, while she just got divorced and was on welfare with her child.

Colonel Sanders – With only a $105 social security check in his hand, pitched his chicken recipe to restaurants. Rejected by the first 1,009.

Oprah Winfrey – Fired from one of her first jobs because the producer said she was “unfit for television.”

Clarity

The happiest I’ve ever been…

Has never been when I’ve had a certain amount of money,

Or had a certain job,

Or gone certain places,

Or had certain relationships.

The happiest I’ve ever been: when I’m utterly clear about what I want and don’t want.

That’s when all of the above seem to fall gracefully into place.

Sleepy Sleep

Good sleep is absolutely essential to a happy and healthy life. It affects energy, eating habits, endurance, focus, recovery, memory, and overall brain power. Why the hell would we sacrifice it?

Well, for fun, obviously. It’s more fun to say yes to staying up late with friends than it is to leave at 10 pm and go to bed.

Many people also feel that gaining more hours in their day adds to their productivity.

Surely sacrificing sleep every once in a while is excusable, but for many of us, it’s a habit; and such sacrifices actually do the opposite of what we hope for.

I woke up this morning at 4 am. Not on purpose. When I wake up it’s nearly impossible for me to go back to sleep. With 3 extra hours in my morning, I would be able to get so much more done, right? Wrong, Sally (or whatever your name is who’s reading).

My morning routine took an hour and 45 minutes as opposed to the usual 45 minutes. I couldn’t keep my focus on anything for more than 60 seconds. My mind would wander and no matter how captivating whatever I was reading or writing was, I inevitably found myself daydreaming about going back to bed.

Something similar happens when I have late nights with friends. Don’t get me wrong; I love them…on occasion. Having beautiful conversations, doing drugs, and drinking beers with my peoples until the sun rises are some of my fondest memories. However, if it happens every weekend, I feel the costs outweigh the benefits.

4 am euphoria leads to 11 am misery–or whenever the crash hits. A truly glorious morning evolves into pleas for death, and vows that I will never do that again.

Every decision is a tradeoff. We typically think about trading good sleep and a comfortable tomorrow for a long, fun evening tonight. But what if we considered other tradeoffs?

What if we sacrificed tonight’s hours for: making an early breakfast in the morning; going hiking when we wake up, or any other combination of plans you’d rather be alive and energetic for the day after?

We’re all human. It’s unreasonable to ask everyone to get great sleep every night…but if we only sacrificed it on rare occasions, we’d be shocked to see that it actually makes us more connected, more productive, and more willing to be adventurous.

Get some Zs.

An Unbalanced Life

Every day, why aren’t you:

• spending a ton of quality time with the friends and family you care about?

• putting in countless hours to master the skills you need for a successful personal life?

• devoting specific hours each day to your fitness and health habits?

• making a constant effort to learn new things and make new connections?

• traveling whenever you get the chance?

It’s simple…because it’s fucking impossible.

Everything is an opportunity cost. Giving time and energy to one thing means taking time and energy away from another. There’s no way around it. A ‘balanced life’ doesn’t exist.

But that’s okay. Once you realize that you can’t please 100% of people 100% of the time, a weight is sort of lifted.

My mindset: When I’m working, I’m fucking working. When I’m playing, I’m fucking playing.

Whatever I’m doing for those given hours, it has my full, present, mindful attention. Nothing else exists. It’s hell yes, or hell no.

Staying Up Till’ 4

Last night. Did it. Feel like death.

Went to see two friends I haven’t seen in a while. Talked and laughed for hours.

Wanted to leave and go to bed, but too good to see them.

Can’t live this way. Can’t do this all the time. But once in a while is worth it.

Today might suffer a bit, but there’s another memory in the jar.

Willpower is finite

In the past few weeks, I have been doing client work and web design in the first half of the day, then podcast and video editing in the evening.

Each time I switch over to my evening tasks, I become incredibly Resistant to work.

Thinking discipline was the problem, I forced myself to sit and suffer through. This made me nervous because I slowly began enjoying the work less and less–work I truly love.

We’ve heard it before (but humans are so good at progressively forgetting even the deepest truths); we only have a certain amount of willpower in the day.

Gary Keller in The One Thing reminds us that willpower is “depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings and impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.”

It’s not a discipline issue; it’s a timing issue. Stretching your willpower thin throughout the day will almost certainly result in mediocre work on several tasks.

Gary argues that we must focus on a select few things and do them very well, as opposed to the alternative; what I was doing. He also urges (as one can surmise from his book’s title) people to do the most important thing as early as possible; when the battery of willpower is fully charged and before it gets drained.

I began theming (hyper-focusing) my days: “Today is client work. Tomorrow is podcasting. Thursday is web design and newsletter. Et cetera.” (Is it pretentious to write out the whole thing instead of just etc?)

My productivity has skyrocketed and my love for what I do feels recharged.

Time your willpower. Most important thing early. Et cetera.

50% Rule

Human beings are reliably awful at predicting how much time something will take.

“We all know that person who thinks it takes 5 minutes to get to the store because she made it there in 5 minutes once.”
– Greg McKeown, from his book Essentialism

Even if it does take 5 minutes to drive somewhere, how long does it take to: gather your things, turn the lights off, put on your jacket, lock the door, walk to the car, start it, pick your music…drive there…find a parking spot, get out of the car, and walk to your destination? Never 5 minutes.

Surprisingly, our estimates are off time and time again; yet we continue this pattern of running late…of needlessly stressing as we rush to get ready or get work done.

I’m a punctual person but naturally I still fall into the traps of time delusion. I’ll give myself an hour to finish working on a web page and at 45 minutes I’ll think, “How the fuck did I think I could finish this in an hour?”

In order to remedy this, I’ve started implementing the 50% rule (also from Greg McKeown).

You simply give yourself an extra 50% of however long you think it will take you.

10 minutes become 15 minutes.
An hour becomes an hour and a half.
Two hours become three.
A week becomes a week and a half.

You get it. Worst case scenario: you have extra, stress-free time on your hands.

Try it out. And stop being 3 minutes late to everything.