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Blog Entrepreneurship Life Lifehacks Relationship

🤞🏽Hey, One Day at a Time, OK?

This reminder pops up on my screen each morning at about this time.

It’s been doing this for a couple of years and, when I am able to, I stop whatever I am doing, switch over to the reminder (in todoist) open the comment, put my hands down, and read OUT LOUD the notes that my past self wrote to me, for me to read today.

It starts with this:

“Rob, this day will be fraught with challenges. Some I will be able to handle. Some, I won’t. That’s not my job.

“My job, on this day, is to see the big picture. Stay true to my Self and in my “right mind” and not lose sight of the impact of my actions on the people around me, especially [my wife] and my family.”

As someone who founded a company a few years ago and immediately went insane with working 100-120 hours each week and turning into a nightmare of a person (all while faking it so my clients wouldn’t know*), this is deeply, deeply meaningful.

(*spoiler: they always knew)

I have spoken here before about how taking notes saved my marriage and my business, and other mental health behaviors I have taken on like meditation and mindfulness. I won’t rehash the same things here, though I can express fully that, whatever your life experience, your journey, I hope you are able to find some peace today in just taking a step, maybe a small one, and not forgetting to breathe.

And my favorite thing about meditation is that people who do it call it a “practice”, not a “perfect”.

Hallelujah for something I 👏🏽 can 👏🏽 just 👏🏽 practice 👏🏽 and not worry about getting right all the time.

These concepts have changed my life. And the colors of the world, and the richness of love I get to feel in my heart in my relationships (and the joy of seeing and working with amazing, amazing people as we built what is turning out to be a very, very unique recruiting company) are much deeper because of it.

🙏🏽 Namaste, my friends. Happy Friday.

Has meditation and mindfulness helped you? I’d love to hear from you.

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Blog Life Relationship

Five Mental Health Behaviors That Have Changed My Life

Five years ago, I thought I had everything figured out. I didn’t appreciate then the good advice of a mentor who would often say, “Use this time of life to prepare for the next.”

That next part of life came and, I was not prepared for it. 

Here are five mental health behaviors I have added to my daily routine that I am glad I have added.  What’s more, if I were to meet my 2015 self and tell them I was doing these things, I think he would laugh at me.

The five behaviors I have added are:

  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Meeting with a therapist and practicing IFS 
  • Journaling intentionally every day
  • Purposeful walks and excursions just for mental clarity
  • Monthly retreat to refocus and renew

Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness has been the mossy-dramatic shift for me in the way that I think about life and how to flow through my days.  I use the Headspace app and try to spend 20-30 minutes a day getting a little break from the clouds and craziness of my life with the headspace app.  

Sometimes, I use it when I drive home (there’s a driving headspace). Other times, I use their sleep sessions to fall asleep (the desert fire one is my favorite) and other times, I use it to open and link my mind and heart before (or after) an important call or presentation.

Being able to allow the “conveyor belt” of my mind to present things to me without freaking out when something rumbles along that I don’t particularly like has been quite helpful.  I can choose to let it just keep going, if I want, or I can question it or consider for myself what that thing is trying to do for me, if anything.  

Either way, mindfulness as a focus has been monumental for me so far this year. 

Meeting a Therapist and Practicing IFS 

Somehow, there’s still a bit of a stigma around therapy, but I have found this a tremendous boost for me. In my relationships with others, I have discovered that the way I see others is often a reflection of the way I am seeing myself.

The Internal Family Systems model (IFS) of therapy is a working model that helps me put together the different “parts” of myself into a cohesive and helpful working group inside my own mind that I can visualize as a set of helpers who are trying to assist me through my days.  Some of them help me connect with and feel empathy for anyone from the teller at the bank to the most important people in my life.  Some of them freak out when I sense danger and do their best (albeit sometimes poorly) to help protect me. 

All in all, this mental model has helped me greatly make sense of my past, deal with unresolved issues I have left undone for myself as well as helped me grow in ways I never thought I could. 

IFS or therapy might not be right for you.  If you’re not sure, consider all this like hiring a life coach. Yeah, that’s cool, right?

Journaling Intentionally, Everyday

I used to journal.

I used to try and write in my online apps like Bear and Evernote.

But then I realized that the only way for me to actually recall things is to journal, intentionally, with a pen and paper.

This may not be the same for you, but I am guessing if you didn’t use a keyboard every day of your life, pen and paper still helps you retain something that keyboard typing simply does not. 

I fought this for years, but now I embrace it.  

I wrote about how taking notes is a secret weapon in my meetings and work, but it’s also how I retain more information and insight, and allows me to capture information and feelings (somehow) that I would not have had later on, if I just tried to recall data like a mental google search result. 

The format or function of the journal has become a bit of a thing for me through this, preferring the moleskine style notebook, though I have been buying the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 bullet journal style (with page numbers!) now for more than a year.  (I link to this in my note taking article, above, should you be interested) – just ctrl-F for “journal” and you should see it)

Having a journal for “work” and another for personal (including spiritual, and mental health) insights has become my preference. 

Purposeful walks and excursions just for mental clarity

I try to walk in mornings where I don’t do another workout.  

I try to walk in the afternoon between 2-3pm.

I am not perfect at these things, but perfection is not as important as intentionality and doing a little more today than yesterday. 

Sometimes, this same walk has been some of the most connecting time I have had with my partner. In fact, she showed me the route. A part of me is with her each time I walk it. 

If you live near me, you have likely seen me.  My route is boring. A two-mile loop from my house (or my trailer-office) around the greater neighborhood and back again. 

I’m the guy talking to himself or repeating something over and over again.  

Sometimes, I put in earbuds. I have been listening to the Binaural Beats Focus podcast on Spotify to with the volume low to help calm and focus my mind.  

By the time I am home again (about 50 minutes) I am refreshed and ready for more — OR — I have solved for and mentally completed my “work” and now can put that aside (or “hang it on my mind tree” as my therapist says) and actually be done with it. 

Monthly retreat to refocus and renew

I need more work on this, but late in 2019 I realized I needed to be about and off doing other things rather than endlessly repeating my weeks and weekends here at home. 

I work in an RV.  

Which is ironic because for two years I think it sat here at the house, getting used as an RV only a few times. 

Since I realized this need, I have a goal to go once a month and do SOMETHING else.  Ideally, for me, it includes hiking, being in nature, experiencing something I have not seen before, practicing a craft or being creative in ways I enjoy like http://instagram.com/r._.pix or writing. 

I got this idea from a colleague at Workday, who led a “class” on creativity once.  They noted how the human mind cannot allow itself to be creative while it is focused too much on a task at hand—something with an end result or a product.

This is one reason you have brilliant ideas in the shower. The mind is unfocused and not trying to solve for everything. 

Once a month, can you disconnect? Perhaps this looks like a morning where you purposefully do not “SLAY ALL DAY!!!!” But you intentionally cancel your meetings, go for a slow walk somewhere beautiful, paint what you feel, feel what you see, meet a friend, talk to yourself about the things you appreciate, listen to others when they tell you the things they appreciate about you. Wear pajamas all day. Try something you can purposefully NOT accomplish. Do something that is not your normal — if you are a computer person, build Something with your hands.  If you are a project person, do something that has no real outcome possible.

This is one reason why I think hiking is so, so, so good for me. Something happens differently in the body and in the mind after two or three miles of a good hike, somewhere on the earth, where you can feel with and be with all the motions and emotions of the world around you.

And exist there.

Without needing a reason or an agenda.

And without expectation for the world to be anything for you than it just simply is.

And breathe that in.

Categories
Blog Life Lifehacks Relationship

Give > Receive

Our parents or grandparents taught us this principle, often in the middle of our requests for some grand thing.

“Grandpa” a photo of a woman kissing an old man’s cheek outside an apartment building or storefront in a busy urban environment. He smiles and you can tell she loves him.  Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash
grandpa”, photo by Trendy Chen on Unsplash.

At the time, we probably didn’t hear it or felt it was a cop out or distraction technique to change the subject from the thing we begged for.

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To say I didn’t understand his urging—that giving was somehow better than receiving—is an understatement.

If you’re like me, this puffy, patriarchal principle seemed something passed down from another time, an age gone by. A time when things were scarce, not plentiful. A time when pictures were black and white, not color, and things were hard to come by, not easy to accumulate like they were in my childhood (and easier than ever now). To me, this advice was from a bygone time marked by saving everything and “making due” (whatever a 9 year old could make of that strange phrase), and of a long, faraway look in my grandfather’s eyes when he thought perhaps too much of those hard, lean times when he was a boy.

(But perhaps, they are times more and more of us may be facing again)

Of course, this proberb’s lesson, as they are wont to do, seems to sweeten and perfect itself over time.

Giving Of Your Time Actually Gives You More Time

Our rise and grind culture of worshipping at the altar of the eternal hustle dissuades this belief, but for centuries, people have found that the more you see and be with other people around you, or open yourself up to the humanity that is present when we just stop and listen for it, the happier and more abundant your life will become.

And I argue you will have more time, and you will be more productive with your time because you will be happier, think clearer and have more energy.

If you are struggling, lonely, find yourself frustrated, anxious or afraid, I am moved by the calm that can come as you pull yourself away from the tightening, shrinkingly claustrophobic cares and concerns of your own life and open your heart wider to allow the life of another.

Perhaps a forgotten friend or a struggling neighbor.

A widow or a stranger.

Even getting to know your postal worker or the Amazon delivery person, or making a concerted effort to graciously thank your DoorDash delivery person can open your heart a little wider than before.

Thanking employees your come across for working and brightening their shift as you check out from the store or buy your take out meal can brighten your day as well as theirs. If this feels challenging to you, remember that they would probably rather be (and might need to be) home caring for a loved one rather than working, but they are deemed essential and have to work instead (which carries less and less paycheck and more and more risk these days).

In times of COVID-19, many people’s support systems are shrinking smaller and smaller. Rediscovering the joy of a phone call, letters across town like a pen pal, or baked goods delivered carefully to another’s door can lighten or brighten a day, a week or a year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

And, it turns out, giving is much, much better than receiving.

What will you give or give up today to have peace and more happiness tomorrow?

Categories
Blog Life

Make the ‘Good-er’ Choice

I dont know what challenges you will face today, or what decisions you will have to make, and I’m not going to tell you if your choice is right or wrong.

I can encourage you to keep choosing the good.

But, if that brings some kind of remorse or shame or pressure to make sure you’re making the right choices, then let me break it down for you a little better:

Just choose the good-er one.

As you pick between

  • Two potential new jobs
  • A job versus caring for a member of your family
  • Or for caring yourself (for a change)
  • Saying no to the busy work you always get left with
  • Or to stop pretending you’ll make time for that relationship when things settle down (spoiler: they won’t)
  • And every other choice you make in a day

Choose the one that feels even 1% good-er than the other one, and you will be alright in the end.

Because that 1% more of the good things you choose builds and builds over your life, leaving you the result of a good, rich life, over time.

Side note: Turns out that good-er is usually not the one with the most money involved, at least at the outset.

  • That relationship you finally made space for
  • That mental peace and emotional resilience you developed through meditation, exercise, and/or working through past trauma
  • That ability you finally developed to say No to things that made you look one way but feel another

All these good choices have a compounding effect.

A goodness about you that will pay its own dividends in peace, good work, centeredness, full love, and better alignment of your reality and your expectations.

And, instead of searching for riches, you will find richness—in your heart, your life, faith and work.

That, my friend, is a good, good life.

Categories
Blog Life

Waste Hours —> Save Years


I’m writing this near a hideaway campground I found near Capitol Reef National Park. I took a few days off this last week, not just physically but mentally as well — something I haven’t done in six months and something I think I have never actually done well.

So, I am nostalgic. Bear with me.

Someone I highly respect said once that as you get older you start experiencing what he calls “long days and short years.”

I am starting to understand some of that.

I wonder if this same sentiment is echoed in Robert Frosts’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening where he laments how many miles to go he has before he sleeps, and in Five for Fighting’s “100 Years” (YouTube) remarking how he is chasing the years of his life and speaking back to his fifteen-year old self telling him he’s got plenty of time ahead.

I saw this sentiment come up again in a different way recently when @ShaneAParrish quipped “We waste years because we cannot waste hours.” *

And I am reading Four Hour Workweek for the first time (yes, late bloomer, I know) and considering his admonition that we should take Fridays off, even if we “work” but focus on self-work or learning new things, and that compressing our work is better for us than relentlessly trying to hustle for more, more, more and more.

So, as I pack up to take my remote trailer office home today, I am pondering the value of just unplugging and letting things that I have built on over weeks and months and years “fend for themselves” for a few days.

And nothing blew up — that I know of.

And I am fresher and more excited about the good things I need/get to do.

And I am also more keenly aware of the endless loops I get myself into where there is a lot of hustle but no production — a lot of noise but little signal.

And a resolve to do better about breaking that cycle. Now.

Partly by forcing myself to waste some hours in the week. On purpose. So I can ALIGN myself better with what I want to DO, which I am decoupling from (and still appreciating the overlap in) what I do for money.

What are you doing to not waste your years?

— — —

By Robert Merrill, written near Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA

*The debate in the comments to this tweet point to the idea this sentiment was previously noted by the late Amos Tvsersky, whose Nobel-prize winning work I love, though I admit I like Shane’s packaging better.