The Role of Your Job in Your Self-Care

In most people’s minds, self-care refers exclusively to that time outside of your job when you’re settling into a bubble bath or going on a long nature walk. However, your career is also a part of that process and shouldn’t be seen as something exclusive of it.

Self-care refers to the activities you engage in with the purpose of maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being on a regular basis. They’re acts that re-energize and rejuvenate you.

Effective self-care shouldn’t be something that you mark on your calendar as 3 hours a week and then the rest of your time is spent miserable and helpless. Self-care is a 24/7, constant process of acceptance, being attentive of your own wants and needs, and analyzing your own behavior. 

These rituals are key to improving your anxiety, anger, depression, and can positively impact how you interact with both yourself and others.

Your job should always be a part of that internal dialogue. Humans spend, on average, 90,000 hours working in their lives. While stressors are certainly a part of that experience (it’s just part of the human condition), they should not overwhelm or make up its entirety.

Finding Meaning

In everything you do and every ritual you undertake, there should be meaning.

In the jobs we work to afford our necessities, comforts, and our way of life, we see our efforts as nothing more than a list of tasks to check off. 

How can we possibly find meaning in work?

Not every source of gainful employment is impacting the world positively in an obvious way, and sometimes you need to look inward to find a reason to pull meaning from your work.

Here are some possible reasons to glean some aspects of fulfillment from your job:

  • Utilizing your creativity
  • Practicing critical thinking skills
  • Growing your marketable skill set
  • Interacting with coworkers, clients, and business partners and growing your network of friends and colleagues
  • Being dependable and giving your life structure
  • Adding directly to the success of a company that represents a cause you care about
  • To protect and provide for your loved ones
  • Innovating, disrupting, and injecting change into a slow-changing organization or field

Even if indirectly, your job can be a source of confidence, discipline, growth, learning, and a place to exercise aspects of your mind, emotions, and personality that you don’t otherwise get to flex in everyday life.

Stepping Back and Reflecting

It’s easy to let the positives of your job get overshadowed by the stress and expectations, but it’s important to take the time to (figuratively) step 20 feet away and take a look at your career from the outside.

Are there things you’ve learned doing your job that you wouldn’t have otherwise had experience with? Are there people you’ve connected with who you would not have met otherwise? Have you had the opportunity to contribute in a quantifiable way to the success of others or a concept or an organization?

It’s easy in the throes of day-to-day drudgery to focus entirely on the negative space. It’s natural to want and feel unfulfilled when you’re not in control, but this humbling experience can also be a blessing. Service to others can be a great way to build confidence and teach you gratitude.

As you carry out the duties of what is expected of you each and every day, take the time to look back on the work you’ve put in and the ways in which the challenges have expanded your knowledge or made you feel accomplished. 

The journey shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the destination.

Putting It All Into Practice

Mindfulness is the most important process that contributes to effective self-care methodology. Recognizing the branching emotional and mental pathways of your day is the first step to understanding and caring for yourself.

After you achieve a level of understanding, however, it’s time to turn that right thought into right action.

After finding places to draw meaning and examining your work from a distance, what can you do to continue these rituals everyday to keep building and refining your new positive, aware, grateful mindset?

  • Go on a morning walk or do some type of physical exercise first thing after waking up. This will be a framing moment for your entire day and starts you off in control of the situation.
  • Take 15 minutes of your lunch break to meditate, practice breathing exercises, focus intensely on an object or word or person, and take control of your wandering thoughts for a few short moments. Hold a thought instead of letting your thoughts hold you.
  • Wait 2 minutes before responding to any ping, phone call, or email message and consider the purpose of the message and what you want to convey in the response. Be in control of your message.

If you’re arriving at the end of this discussion and you’re wondering about one single thread that ties all of these thoughts together, it’s taking the power back.

Sure, we’re all human and we all have moments of anger, sadness, anxiety, and quick decisions, but even small changes and moments of reflection on the ways we think and act are vast improvements. 

We can take the time to understand, examine, and be aware of where we are and what we have to be thankful for.

These are all bricks to lay toward effective self-care.

How to Give a Meaningful Gift

For thousands of years, gift giving has been a part of the human experience. It is a multi-faceted practice, as it surrounds both joyous and sorrowful circumstances. Whether to celebrate accomplishments / momentous events or to ease pain, gifts are always appropriate and always welcome.

The problem arises, however, when it comes time to actually choose the gift to fit the occasion and, most importantly, the person. How are you supposed to know what kind of gift to give someone?

Consider the Event

If a tragedy or loss has been suffered, obviously the gift’s tone will be extremely different compared to an important and happy life event.

In the case of tragic events, lean toward objects that are warming, comforting, classy, and subdued. Flowers, food, nice picture frames, restaurant gift cards, or hand-made art or trinkets are all examples of loving gifts in a time of need.

The reasons behind sympathy gifts are to help take care of someone’s necessities during times of extreme stress or to show that you’re thinking about them and sending love and support.

All of this sentiment goes a long way in helping someone feel better.

For celebrations like birthdays, graduations, new babies, or engagements, colorful and loud gifts are more appropriate. You’re looking to express your excitement and congratulations in a tangible way, so now is the time for bright balloons, large packages with ornate wrapping, eye-catching housewares, bedding, kitchen gadgets, electronics, and other gifts designed to impress.

Always Approach with Practicality

Outside of my home office that’s filled with 80s / 90s pop culture toys, advertisements, posters, and video games, the rest of my home takes a very minimalistic approach. As someone who suffers from OCD, clutter is my number one enemy. I bring this up because the same principle can apply to gift giving.

Don’t buy something that will sit on a shelf and collect dust!

I cannot emphasize the above point enough because, as a gift-receiver, nothing annoys me more than having to hang onto something I will never display or use because of guilt. Don’t be the reason for someone’s unwarranted guilt.

Because of my clutter-free mindset, I much prefer gifts that get, at minimum, a weekly use out of me. My most treasured gifts have all been objects I use regularly: a Weber Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker, Super Nintendo games, cast iron pans, a nice gaming mouse.

The idea behind practicality is it ensures that your money was not wasted. The item you give adds actual value to a person’s life and its usefulness is reflected in how much it’s actually used. 

My dad constantly tells me how much he loves the hand truck that converts to a cart that I gave him years ago. He loves estate sales, garage sales, and antiquing and it’s been a huge help to a 65-year-old-man lugging heavy things around.

Understand Your Audience

Like one of those charlatans pretending to talk to dead relatives, ample research on your subject is a first stop in understanding what makes them tick.

Make sure you consider the thoughts, feelings, interests, and career of the person that you’re buying offerings for. What good is a gift that doesn’t fit a friend, family member, or loved one’s personality traits?

It’s like when your grandmother bought you those awful clothes as a child. It’s a nice gesture, but it would be a FANTASTIC gesture if she actually understood your style and bought something that didn’t have to get hidden in the far reaches of your closet.

In this day and age, this part should be easy. Check their Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, or anywhere they proclaim their thoughts, feelings, and interests publicly. Look at what pages and celebrities they follow, the clothes they wear or show off most frequently, and what types of lifestyle brands and products they’re most actively engaged with. It’s a treasure trove.

Get Something They Wouldn’t Buy for Themselves

The hardest portion of effective gift giving is figuring out how to buy a gift for someone that they wouldn’t buy for themselves, but you know that they’d want.

I often ponder this point the most obsessively because it’s never easy to put yourself in the shoes and mind of another human being accurately.

Personally, it’s why I tell people not to buy me electronics. Sure, I love electronics, but I have very specific tastes and have come to appreciate a certain level of audio-visual quality and I don’t want to have to receive an “inferior” gift that I then feel bad upgrading or giving away.

In this example, the best way to get me something I wouldn’t buy for myself is to look at tasks that would be made easier with some product I don’t currently own. It could also be some piece of my wardrobe I would clearly love and wear and I don’t currently own. 

This takes some nuance and skill and a deep level of understanding, but it can be done.

In the end, the old adage of “it’s the thought that counts” is not necessarily true. That would mean every lazy lover who bought a shitty gift should be lauded instead of lambasted. I disagree wholeheartedly because there’s a difference between just showing up and PERFORMING.

How To Plan For Professional Networking

The old adage about “who you know” seems contrite, but the art of effective networking can completely change your life, your career, your opportunities, and your compensation.

If you’re someone who keeps to yourself or you’re more socially awkward than most, you’ll need to put in some work. It’s called net-“working,” after all.

Do Your Research

If you’re at a new company, it’s important to explore all avenues of career progression. When you see or meet someone with a job you want, ask them how they got there. Find out the channels they traveled through to end up in your desired position.

It’s not enough to just do this once or a handful of times and constantly evaluating your branching career paths and updating your lists of key contacts in those positions will serve to keep you focused in your pursuit of a dream job.

Make Time

It’s really not enough to simply reach out and e-mail the folks you want to know, work with, or shadow–you have to see them face to face. Plan coffee talks, take them to lunch, grab drinks, and really pick their brain to ask personally and professionally pointed questions about your biggest curiosities.

Build rapport, but don’t lose sight of your purpose in all of your social interactions in the workplace. Be pragmatic. Think several steps ahead of the conversation and go into every chat with a plan of action and a clearly defined, desired result. This will keep you on task.

Conversations will happen organically, but you should be the one mediating the flow of subject matter when it veers off the tracks.

Shadow When Possible

The best way to learn a skill is to immerse yourself in its mastery. Find someone whose knowledge you want to tap into and whose skill set matches the place you see yourself ending up.

Don’t be intimidated by the experience gap between you and this person and remember that walls aren’t built in a day. All you have to do is lay a single brick.

When you’ve grown close enough to someone you’re networking with, ask to shadow them. Make note of their process, speed, and efficiency and write down the skill gaps that are holding you back from achieving that level of mastery. Make a conscious effort to review these notes and continue to improve yourself.

Throughout the shadowing period, ask for best practices and pro tips for achieving the speed and accuracy of your mentor and also ask for detailed reasoning when they make a judgment call. You need to understand how they think and perform not simply to mirror their behavior, but to put your own spin on things and to translate their success into your own unique path to success.

You always need a benchmark before you can improve a process.

Lend A Hand

No work is beneath you. If you go int a role too proud, you’ll be seen as a know-it-all. Like Kendrick Lamar says, “Be humble.” You can be confident and knowledgeable without coming off as pretentious.

Whether it’s someone you’re shadowing, someone in your service line, or someone completely separate from your current field, offer help when you have bandwidth.

Whatever you volunteer for, there is an expectation of follow through, so make sure to provide support that is of value.

The more you show your worth and value without going so far as to become a doormat, the more respect you will get ad the more you will be talked about.

Being talked about is a good thing because it means that they remember you.

Do Something: the How and Why of Volunteering

Why Volunteer?

The average person volunteers very little of their time to helping others. It’s incredibly easy to sit back and complain about things, maintain a cynical view on life, and focus only on the negative aspects of life and human suffering. While there are an insurmountable number of calamities in the world, sitting back and lamenting about them gets you nowhere.

No matter how insignificant you feel your contribution may be, even the smallest iota of positive influence and change you endeavor to send out into the world is worthy of your time and effort. No fight was ever won with a single battle. It’s a “death by a thousand cuts” situation. Every little bit helps.

People can have all kinds of reasons for wanting to volunteer. Most want to help others or feel like they’ve contributed some good in the world.

Despite your inner guilt, it’s also okay to want to glean some benefits for yourself from the act of service.

Volunteering is more of a loop than a straight line of giving. Although you may be the one selflessly providing for others today, you may require a helping hand from others in the future. It’s about paying it forward and being there for your fellow human.

Some possible motivations:

– Feeling needed
– Sharing something you’re good at with others
– Inspiring people
– Demonstrating commitment to a cause
– Feeding the hungry
– Teaching a life skill like reading or writing
– Challenging yourself
– Padding your resume
– A need for change
– Personal familiarity with the cause or tragedy
– Pride
– Meeting new people
– To escape

These are just a handful of justifications for your plunge into volunteerism, but there are countless more that I haven’t covered.

What personally motivates you? That’s the first consideration you should be making when determining how you’d like to give back.

Regardless of what inspires your decision to volunteer, you’re doing the right thing by exploring the options.

Where Do I Start?

Another facet of volunteering is deciding what conviction of yours is most important to you. What are the principles you’d like to uphold through your service?

If you’re compelled to increase local education, volunteer at your library or offer to help struggling students in elementary schools with their reading. Tutor someone in a subject you’re familiar with. If you’d like to lend advice to people, consider working as a life coach. Mentor folks in their career path, try to point others in the right direction.

There is an unlimited array of options for volunteer organizations, so the trick is to find work that you value. If you’re not into serving food or picking up litter, offer to help build homes or playgrounds or volunteer at a local hospital. The possibilities are endless, but the work will mean more if it’s for a cause that you wholeheartedly believe in.

Local vs. International

Do you want to help the community that you live in or would you rather travel abroad to struggling countries? While this seems fanciful or impossible, many organizations make it a reality for people to travel around the world to help others. Look into the Peace Corps or Greenpeace or, if you’re the religious type, consider becoming a missionary. Even Teach For America can send you to unexplored parts of your own country to lend extra help to needy school districts.

If this is your first foray into volunteering, though, I’d suggest that you start local. Begin on a smaller scale and look for local causes that interest you. Maybe there’s a book fair or carnival going on that you could lend your services to. There could be a local Boys and Girls Club that needs coaches or chaperones for their events and sports activities.

There’s always something to do.

Reach Out for More Information

Once you find a purpose that you’d like to explore, the next step is to gather as much information as you can.

Do a Google search and read the mission statement of the organization. Reach out on their contact page to one of the organizers and see if you can get some additional information, figure out times that they’re most busy, and acquire a list of activities that you could help with.

Get to know people in the organization and explain your background and preferences. What are you good at? What, specifically, can you contribute? Ask what their needs may be. Consider filling an immediate need and think about learning a new skill, even if its outside of your wheelhouse. This experience is about both helping others and, for yourself, growing internally and expanding your horizons.

It’s also important, if you’re employed, to ask your boss or human resources person to outline the do’s and don’ts of taking a volunteer day at your company. Most companies now give at least 1 paid day a year where you can volunteer for an event of your choosing. The only barriers may be coverage and the timing of the event. Make sure it’s not during a particularly busy quarter where your presence is indispensable. Sit down and discuss the possibilities with your employer and let them know that you’re flexible. With a little bit of balancing, I’m sure there’s opportunity to get something on the books for your volunteer work.

Get Training and Get Started

There may be some amount of training required before you start your activity. Make sure this is part of the information you request from the organizer. Perhaps there are certain protocols that must be followed in order to be considered for the opportunity.

If there is a formal orientation, make sure to be in attendance. If there’s nothing formal, then shadow an experienced volunteer. Ask lots of questions and learn as you go.

As long as you’re open-minded, can take direction, and you actually show up, you’re well on your way to being an asset.

Additional resources:

Teach For America
The Peace Corps
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Coach Training Alliance
The Red Cross 
The Salvation Army
Habitat for Humanity 

An Argument in Support of Remote Work Opportunities

Work / life balance is a popular phrase to throw around to describe the intersection of a person’s career choices and their social pursuits outside of their working life, but most of the discussion focuses on spending that work life inside of an office. That doesn’t have to be the case.

Due to the evolving nature of technology, the ability to work from wherever the hell you want on planet earth is more of a reality now than it ever was before.

I’ve heard every excuse and justification from employers and cohorts alike as to why remote work is a bad choice. “It limits your face time with higher ups and promotion opportunities” or “Employees get less work done remotely” are some of the more common arguments.

In my anecdotal experience, neither of these pitfalls are accurate for the majority of the remote workforce.

Remote work allows employees the opportunity to spend time with their families, friends, loved ones, and pets. We have such a limited time on earth as mortal beings prone to accidents and disease, and its in our best interest to fill our heads with reams of experiences and landscapes to remember fondly as we advance in age.

My late grandmother once told me, in her 90s, that she had reached a point in her life where she no longer looked forward, but instead focused on looking back. She expressed her undying gratitude for the travel and the people and the life wisdom she absorbed when she was younger and more mobile. That sentiment should resonate with every human being.

As I’ve grown older, family and friends and loved ones have become increasingly important to my life. My knowledge and perspective growth is vital. I want to see, hear, and meet as many places and people as possible before I die.

As a non-religious person, I know my time is limited. I know my consciousness has its beginning, middle, and end. No parts of me want to miss out on the laughs, the gasps, the beauty, the chaos, or the bewilderment that life can bring with open borders.

If you have children, do you really want to miss out on their steps toward growing up? Do you want to be unavailable and absent in their times of confusion and need? They’re young for such a short period of time and those are the moments that you’ll hold most dear as they age and raise their own families, accomplish their own goals.

To the argument about less face time leading to decreased promotion opportunities, I say people who subscribe to that notion have not tried hard enough. I’ve worked in roles where remote video conferences were the norm, and I’ve never felt out of the loop.

You have to over-communicate and make yourself available. Pick up the phone, set up a WebEx, talk over Skype or Facetime and make your presence known. Your networking and career mobility are in your own hands no matter where you sit.

If you believe that remote employees are less productive than ones who reside in an office building, I would challenge that assumption wholeheartedly as well. Reducing the need for travel time to an office, the distractions that surround employees in a corporate setting, and the feeling of punching the clock upon arrival and departure are all vines that strangle the productivity and morale out of employees.

Me, I work best remotely. It gives me time to do heads down work in between conference calls and take a detailed, attentive approach to creating, editing, and giving feedback on documents and presentations. It allows me the freedom to pour a cup of coffee, make breakfast, and bust out a day’s worth of work in a few morning hours.

I feel happier, more serene, and freer when I’m working remotely. If I need to be surrounded by people, I drive to Starbucks with my laptop. If I’m focused on completing a long project, I lock myself in my home office and get to work. I finish far more in an 8 hour period remotely than 12-15 hours in-office.

If you’re a business owner, you should look at this article through a more pragmatic lens. You pay exponentially more money for your employees when rents, leases, office amenities, and commuter benefits are factored into the plan. You could be saving millions of dollars by switching to a more remote-friendly model and making your employees happier and more productive, thus retaining them longer.

You no longer have to worry about snowstorms, canceled trains, or flat tires inhibiting your top-performing employees from making it to the office for the day. You’re giving a highly-valued appreciation for your coworkers and their hard work by understanding the need for flexibility and respecting their lifestyles.

Remote work opportunities give people more time to spend on bettering themselves through exercise and exploring personal hobbies, making time for the people they care about, and taking care of household chores and obligations.

Folks with travel aspirations will no longer go on sabbaticals because they have the freedom to work from the French Riviera or riverside in Montreal. They can get Wi-Fi on an island and send their polished PowerPoint decks before taking a dip in the mini pool in their private villa.

You’re also promoting a valuable mindset in the work culture of your business by empowering employees to be more proactive, independent, and agile. People will be encouraged to work on their own without micromanagement and it will allow new and revolutionary ideas to flourish. No longer beholden to a certain way of doing things, efficiencies can be fostered and gained. Workflows can be refined.

I’ve never worked in an office that was more comfortable and technologically advanced than my home office and my output, my mental state, my speed, my accuracy, and my creative problem solving works best when unrestricted by tired convention.

There is so much more to life than work, and so much more to work than having it dominate and restrict your life.

Transformative Exercise: Why You Should Take a Hike

Everyone seems to put “hiking” as a hobby on their dating and personal profiles, but why is it so common? Maybe it seems like a symptom of the “hippie” attitudes pervading food and exercise culture the past few decades, but there are a huge list of reasons that myself and so many others are taking to the trails, beaches, forests, mountains, and national parks to experience hiking firsthand. Find one or several reasons for hiking that I’ve listed below and use the motivation to help transform your own life in a positive way.

Combating Everyday Stress

With the weight of work, family, relationship, and friend obligations and responsibilities weighing heavy on your back every day, it’s important to find a way to relax. In addition to meditation and ASMR, I find hiking to be one of my favorite ways to let go of my stress. I’ll pull up a fantastic, introspective playlist on Spotify, pop on some headphones and walk for at least an hour in my park of choice. I’ll try to spot birds, chipmunks, sometimes even wild turkeys and watch them make their way through the wilderness. In the moment, I feel no stress at all.

Make Yourself Happier

As a lifelong sufferer of depression, I’ve always had to get creative to keep my mind off of negative thought loops. Hiking gives me a sense of peace and accomplishment that only exercise in the outdoors can give you. Like a runner after their daily jog, there’s a certain natural high associated with hiking and exercise in general that makes you feel good. You’ve completed a physical task for the day. You’ve seen beautiful trees, quiet streams, and the serene simplicity of nature. It helps to get away from your desk and out from under the precipice of your indoors existence and find something that makes you smile.

Improve Your Physical Health and Fitness

As someone who lived morbidly obese for most of their teenage and college life, I fully understand the need for physical health and fitness. Both sides of my family run rampant with diabetes and it’s a constant struggle to stay within the confines of the weight I’ve lost. Hiking was a big part of my 150 pound weight loss journey. It was the first exercise I started doing and I did it every day. An hour of hiking a day can burn 300-1,000 calories depending on your speed and intensity and it makes you feel great. That endorphin high that comes with physical exertion in this manner is great for your overall health. You’re getting a great, practical cardio workout and you’re enjoying yourself instead of walking on a treadmill in a smelly gym. It’s my preferred method of cardiovascular exercise.

Appreciate the Details in Life

People spend so much time eating quickly without enjoying it fully, rushing to work, rushing home, sitting in front of the television and whiling away their free hours with mindlessness. Hiking lends itself incredibly well to the opposite: mindfulness. Take the time to appreciate the details. Stop the swirling thoughts in your head from bleeding minutes into hours. You’re missing so much of the good stuff. The beauty is in the details. Take the time to watch an animal in the wild or examine a bird or flowers or trees. Notice the fish and tadpoles gliding through the creek alongside you. Pick up a rock that looks cool. There’s so much intricacy and unfathomably beautiful form in the world that you’ll miss if you’re not looking hard enough.

Feed Your Need to Explore

When you’re a child, you’re always exploring. Every aspect of the world that you come in contact with is a new experience. You’re tasting, hearing, seeing, feeling, and smelling things that are new and foreign to you and you soak up all this sensory information like a sponge. As you get older, you fall into routine. You stop doing things that are outside the norm. You fall victim to mundaneness and mediocrity. Don’t fall into this trap. Go outside and hike a trail that you’ve never walked before. Take a path that you never considered. That sense of exploration and finding new things is invaluable to the intellectual curiosity of every human being.

Take in Some Breathtaking Views

Just like the aforementioned intricate details, it’s important to take a look at the big picture as well. Hike to the top of a large hill, cliff face or mountain and take a look at the incredible views. It makes you feel small and insignificant to see the majestic expanse of space sprawling out before you. Just like outer space and the deep ocean, it’s important to understand our place in the world. It puts our small daily woes into perspective to see how large existence really can be.

Meet New People

When you’re out on the trail, it isn’t just about solitude either. If your chosen hike is at a popular spot, chances are you’ll pass by several other hikers or groups of hikers. Whether it’s a casual “Hello” or a full-blown conversation, it’s a chance to meet other people, if you’re in the mood for socializing. Happiness is best when shared, so take the opportunity to spread a some good vibes to your fellow humans. You may even make friends.

Get Some Sun

Vitamin D is integral to the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption and research shows it plays a role in the prevention of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Beyond its clinical applications, sun just feels good. The warmth of its rays raining down on you from above, cluttered slightly by trees and shrubbery feels natural and right. Just don’t forget to wear your sunscreen.

Challenge Yourself

It’s important to set achievable goals for yourself and accomplish them. It leads to a sense of fulfillment and purpose and gives your life a semblance of meaning. Hiking is a great way to challenge yourself and create goals. Maybe increase your distance hiked in the same amount of time by half a mile. Maybe conquer a hill that was too steep for you in the past. Try to go further than you’ve ever gone without taking a break. Set goals, achieve goals, and feel better about yourself.

Feel Alive

The most important part of hiking, though, is simply feeling alive. Early man was always outside and, due to technology and our reliance on creature comforts, we’ve lost that innate part of the human experience. Nothing makes me feel more at one with the world than hiking through a new territory and seeing what the earth really looks like beyond the confines of my front door. We’re not just vessels for work, school, and consumption. We’re inquisitive animals and we need to be out in the fresh air to feel alive.

I hope this list has given you some insight into why hiking is an important part of my life. Hopefully, I’ll see you on the trails!

The Art of the Work Life Balance

If I hear one more person say that millennials are “lazy” or “entitled,” I’m going to explode like a shaken up can of Mountain Dew pitched full-force onto asphalt.

Just because we strive for a balance between work and life doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us smart people.

We live in an age, not like our parents’, where people without college degrees don’t get a single chance to succeed. There are no warehouse or manufacturing jobs left in America to feed the families of people who put in an honest day’s work but didn’t spend hundreds thousands of Sallie Mae’s dollars on a piece of collegiate paper.

Because of this fact, the rising costs of healthcare, and a lack of long-term investment by companies in their employees, it’s easy to get taken advantage of.

At every single job I’ve worked in my entire adult life, it is the people who are the most competent who get shit on the most. Much like the struggling middle class, they carry the burden of their condescending superiors and their overwhelmingly lazy subordinates.

It is the intelligent, strategic, hardworking, decent, driven, punctual, dependable people who are forced to endure the long hours and the lack of recognition.

I say it’s time to take a stand.

Always Do You

No matter what anyone says, you and your loved ones are the most important aspects of your life. It’s not the looming deadlines or the boss who takes 4 hour lunch breaks that will bring you happiness or success, it is you following your own path. Set your priorities first and foremost.

Plan trips, shake up your routine, spend time outside of work thinking about absolutely anything except work and don’t feel a single bit of guilt about it. Life is not work. Work is just a necessary part of achieving the life that you want.

If you’re not happy at your job, look for a new one. There’s no sense in resigning yourself to doing something you hate 5 days a week. There are other options.

Chase Excellence Instead of Perfection

We’re human beings and we make countless mistakes in our lives. You oversleep sometimes. You overeat sometimes. You over drink sometimes and end up falling asleep in a Lyft and forcing the driver to violently shake you awake at your destination. No one is perfect and no one should be.

Stop trying to be perfect. Perfectionism is dangerous and self-destructive. If you spend all of your time worrying about all the minute mistakes you may have made in your menial, stupid job, you’ll miss all the best parts of life. You’ll ignore the details. You’ll fall into a mire of depression and insecurity that you don’t deserve.

Fall asleep in that Lyft, take a deep breath, and tell the driver to go fuck himself when he wakes you up.

Instead, be excellent in everything you do. Put forth effort, but don’t drive yourself into madness for the approval and validation of coworkers. Do your job and do it well and make suggestions when they’re warranted, but stop beating yourself up.

Spend Some Time Away from the Computer

If you’re like me, you spend 8 hours a day behind a computer screen at work (well, 8 if you’re lucky) and it can be draining. Even though I love to write, the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is spend more time in front of the computer. Most of my writing is done in notebooks and then transcribed for that very reason. Sometimes I crave the organic touch of a pen and paper versus a blinking cursor in a Word document.

Instead, look away from your phone and email inbox for a few hours every day and enjoy something real and personal. Read a book huddled up in a chair. Sit on your back porch or patio with a huge mug of coffee and watch the birds fly around and the squirrels steal their food from the bird feeder.

Me, I love to cook. When I come home, the first thing I want to do is spend a good, methodical hour chopping vegetables, seasoning meat, and preparing a delicious dinner for myself and my friends and/or loved ones. It allows me to control what I’m eating, relax, exercise a little bit of creativity, and actually use the fucking groceries I just spent a hundred dollars on.

Whatever it is that makes you happy, focus on that once you’re free from the confines of your office or cab or construction site.

Focus on Mental and Physical Clarity

Whether you’re a squat junkie or someone who practices transcendental meditation, it’s best to work out the relationship between your mind and body in your free time.

The balance between exercise and mental health is well-known and, with the stresses of the day now behind you, it’s the perfect time to relieve your worries and settle into a candlelit bubble bath or an intense cardio session.

There’s no wrong way to improve your physical and mental well being, unless you’re one of those people eating pizza and sitting backward on the ab dipper at Planet Fitness, so choose what suits you best. Hike, meditate, lift, run, bike, or listen to ASMR on headphones and find your zen space.

Leave Work on Time

I can’t stand the notion that it’s only the people who stay late every day and work every weekend who are useful or successful in their careers. This is a commonly held misconception.

In reality, it’s the people who put in their full effort during the 8 hours they’re at their job, work harder, work smarter, and find efficient and new ways of doing things in a limited amount of time who are invaluable to the scaling needs of a business.

If you’re staying late just so your boss doesn’t look at you funny, then you’re doing it wrong. When you’re ready to leave and all your goals for the day have been taken care of, pack up your stuff and walk out the door.

You’re only setting a precedent of misery for yourself when you force yourself to begrudgingly stay past when you’re trying to get home and see your loved ones or experience all the other fun things in your life.

Don’t deprive yourself of a social life or time with people you care about because you’re afraid that you’ll be looked upon poorly. As long as you do your shit and don’t leave anyone hanging, leave when you’re supposed to.

The People We Meet

Maybe I just have a face that makes people think I’m non-judgmental or a good listener, but random folks have always gravitated toward entering into open discussions with me. I’ve chatted casually about everything from asinine weather opinions to in-depth conversations about addiction histories or mental illness. Personally, I welcome the shoulder shake out of my daily routine and the fascinating humanization of people I wouldn’t otherwise notice beyond a casual glance.

What is it about the people we meet that leaves such a lasting impression on who we are and how we view the world?

In some ways, meeting new and strange people reminds us internally of our utmost biases and prejudice. We look at a person and based on their gender, affectations, clothing, hair style, height, and other arbitrary characteristics, our mind creates relational preconceptions. They’re low class. They’re high class. They’re intelligent, dirty, clean, high maintenance, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, sexually open or frigid. It takes active awareness to stop these notions from instantly forming and instead try to view people on a purely empirical basis.

It’s like when you’re reading a book and character, upfront, is entirely a villain. You see their actions through the main character’s eyes and you make snap judgments about their character and worth. You assume that they’re a concentrated ball of pure evil instead of a human being. It is only later in the novel when their motivations are revealed that you begin to see a fully-formed perspective of the person and understand why they are the way they are.

This concept is something I’ve struggled with in my life. I’ve always considered myself a fairly progressive person and above the trappings of misogyny and racism, but many people have caught me in casual conversation exhibiting signs of that kind of behavior and mindset. While veiled in humor or satire, in my own mind, you do not control the way others perceive your words. While to you these things may seem harmless or goofy, to others they could be painful reminders of a society that institutionalizes their outsider status.

I don’t speak jokes with maliciousness, but intent does not matter. What matters is that the eyes and ears perceiving these utterances have their own interpretations and it’s important to understand that words truly do matter. I’m a proponent of free speech in all avenues, but free speech does not simultaneously mean free of consequence. There is a ripple effect to any ideas and assumptions made publicly, whether in the negative or positive sense. This is something to keep in mind when meeting and speaking to new groups of people.

Just recently, I’ve met some interesting characters since my commute has shifted from the weekly travel schedule of a professional consultant to a daily Philadelphia commute via the regional rail transit system. Each day brings new surprises and new people and I’ve had both valuable and forgettable experiences in that space.

There was the man who works for Septa and was taking the late train home with me on a night that I had met some friends in the city for dinner. He looked like Herschel from the Walking Dead, prior to his amputation. Based on his dirty clothes and disheveled look, my brain wanted to paint him into a corner as a grunt worker with no college education. Visual cues are so inaccurate, though. He was a computer engineer who had designed entire systems and infrastructure for the company and had a brilliant mind that loved to talk. We had a great conversation before parting ways and I was left feeling good about our interaction.

I met a young woman on the train who looked like a hippie. She sported a t-shirt with moons on it to match the tattoo on her arm and cut-off jeans. She was a brilliant and positive mind who had gotten a full-ride scholarship to Penn’s business school. She talked of the positive outlook of her life philosophy and how much she loved meeting and talking to new people. She wanted to be an entrepreneur and open up a cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania.

There’s also the barista at work who was celebrating his 21st birthday and wanted me to follow his drag persona Instagram. His friendly demeanor and personable attitude causes many people in my building to talk to him every day at length.

In each of these scenarios, I was going about my daily mundane business in typical fashion and fell into conversations with new and interesting people who I appreciated meeting. Whether I never see them again or they become somewhat regular fixtures of conversation, it’s worthwhile having met them. If I succumbed to the pitfalls of prejudice and being closed off from interpersonal interactions, I would have missed out on the experiential spontaneity of good conversation.

Even if the conversation comes from a dark place and the person just needs to vent, it’s important to be objective and listen once in awhile. Sometimes people just need an ear. You may be the only person that they interact with in their daily life. You don’t know how many people you could be saving from a bad day or a place of intense despair. You may be preventing someone’s loneliness.

Stop putting up walls and start trying to exist together. We only have so long.

How to Make Your Mind Let Go

“The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go”

Atiśa Dīpankara Śrījñāna

Letting go of things both metaphysical and physical is one of the hardest, but most fulfilling achievements of a human life. Meditation helps a person practice what it takes to let go. It focuses your thoughts away from the millions of swirling ideas and feelings passing through your head.

Think about when you sit in quiet stillness and close your eyes. Your mind is very active. It does not linger on one thought very long. Images, sounds, memories, emotions, sensations all seem to pop up and vanish as quickly as they materialize. The goal of meditation is to let go metaphysically. You are practicing the ability to accept each moment with awareness and without expectation, as these expectations lead to suffering. The goal is to experience each moment fully.

The reason that meditation is such a necessary training exercise is the same reason that we write first drafts of essays and show them to friends and editors: it’s a safe space to try new things. We don’t have to worry about the weight of our new routines and ways of thinking completely obliterating our credibility or ruining our lives. Practice is the key to success, after all.

All of our difficulties would be alleviated if we possessed thoughts that didn’t need to attach itself to expectations.

Granted, this is no easy feat and even the most self-actualized of us all find difficulty in maintaining this separation, but the self-awareness and want to live this way is an achievement in and of itself. It allows you to strip away at least some of your preconceptions, and those are important bricks to lay to improve your life.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on the path to easing your attachments:

Begin by recognizing each time you obsess or repeatedly derive value or comfort from an object, person, or behavior. Take note of it in a journal or in your phone.

Along with each noted experience, write down how these feelings affect your day. Do they make you anxious, angry, or put other negative thoughts in your head? Do they cause you to behave or speak differently? Write down every granular detail, to the best of your ability. This will help you identify patterns and root causes.

Practice daily meditation 15 minutes a day, when it is convenient for you. I find my best time to meditate is after a long day of work. It helps me stay calmer in my personal, night time hours. Some other people feel it is best in the morning. Do what works best for you.

Monthly, go through physical objects like clothing, decorations, toys, etc. in your living space and get comfortable with the idea of getting rid of them. Sell or give away objects that you don’t use at least once a week.

Take a look at the relationships in your life. Those that do not bring you joy, comfort, and peace, consider employing my method of removing toxic people from your life ethically. The more positive individuals and energies you surround yourself with, the easier it will be to rely on yourself and not the approval of toxic people. This will help shed some expectations and self-doubt.

Take the time to understand the perspectives of others. You shouldn’t be bound by their perspective, but you should acknowledge, understand, and appreciate it. Understand how these attachments affect all humans and realize that not everyone is on the same path to shedding these attachments. Help them in any way you can. This expansion of perspective allows you to step outside your preconceptions and compulsions and understand with an open mind the way that people interact, their needs, their wants, and how their attachments and yours lead to suffering.

Notice, accept, and appreciate every moment, in the moment. Recognize your exact place on the planet at this time will never happen again. See the beauty and recognize the bewildering intrigue of life. Realize there’s no time for suffering and spend your energy only on curiosity, understanding, creative thought, compassion, love, and wonder. 

Yes, letting go of all attachments may seem idealistic and impossible, but that’s only because you’re not living this way day to day. The more you try to live life free of clinging, the more you will see it is the only way to live.

I still have a long way to go myself as far as attachment. I cling to validation and objects way more than I should. I cling to memories. I cling to other peoples’ opinions of me. I cling to vanity and smugness and arrogance.

Recognizing these shackles is the first step, now get out there and start breaking the chains.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering to Leave Your Current Job

When you’ve decided that it might be time to vacate your present position, it can be a daunting decision. It’s so easy to stick to routines and decide not to explore. You may feel a misguided sense of loyalty to your current company despite how they’ve treated you.

How do you know when it’s time to go?

These 7 questions are the perfect litmus test for weeding out true career ambitions from the sea of fanciful idealism.

Ask yourself:

How often do you have one on one meetings with your manager?

If the frequency of your manager pulling you into a meeting room to talk about your personal growth and career trajectory is that of seeing a solar eclipse, then you may be right to consider other employment options.

The sign of a good manager or supervisor is someone who appreciates autonomy but is connected enough to you to see where your skill set should take you, how to get you there, and effective ways to motivate you.

If the only reason your manager ever wants to talk to you is to assign additional work with no questions about your wellbeing, feelings, or professional development, then you’re better off finding somewhere that values you more as a person and wants to keep you around.

Are processes ever audited?

Change is as inevitable in the business world as it is in real life and corporations must evolve in order to adapt to all of these industry, internal, and external changes.

If your current job doesn’t take the time to hash out current processes, identify redundancies, and spread the work around in an efficient way that minimizes wasted time, then your chances of seeing any sort of cultural or collaborative improvements are slim to none.

Companies worth your time and effort will constantly be looking for ways to make things better. They’ll want to innovate, scale, and model the business in a manner that suits both their valued employees as well as their revenue.

This is how large corporations make money. They cut waste, promote from within, and make valuable employees feel valuable.

Do you have any interaction with human resources outside of canned and companywide communications?

How your human resources department communicates with and treats you on a daily basis is an excellent sign of the health of your relationship with your current position.

When you’re only receiving canned email responses of legal language and generic documents in the company’s letterhead, then your human resources department is not doing everything they can to assist in training and development.

If your onboarding process is simply giving a new hire a computer and then letting them figure it out from there, then you’ll definitely want to consider other options.

I’ve had jobs where I never even saw an HR person visit the office, let alone provide any level of support and this became a huge red flag when I was considering the possibility of pursuing other avenues of work.

Do you receive a merit-based bonus at least yearly?

Money certainly isn’t everything, but employees need to be acknowledged and rewarded regularly to feel like anything more than cogs in a wheel.

Companies who do not offer bonuses simply do not care about their employees. They don’t want to retain anyone long term. All they want is the cheapest possible price for the work that you provide.

Some people feel that it’s unnecessary as long as your salary is within range, but I highly disagree. Merit-based bonuses allow the hardest workers to feel like there’s something to strive for and a reward for all of their diligence and accuracy.

If I work tirelessly every day to provide value to my company, I expect a little something in return. If not, it’s like you’re being taken for granted.

The value you provide the organization deserves to be given some kind of compensation, in good faith, to let you know that they see what you’re doing and appreciate the effort.

Are there opportunities to learn new things?

Professional development and education are extremely important once you’re part of the work force. You never want to be stagnant in a role. You always want to be able to explore new ideas in the industry, keep up on current trends, and feel that you’re starting with a base of knowledge and continually building on it.

Working in siloes only serves to alienate people from their employer. No one wants to be responsible for a solitary job with no hope to cross train or pick up new skills.

The point of working is to get better and eventually get to a mastery level that allows you to manage, direct, or preside over less experienced folk in order to impart them with the knowledge to allow them to become managers and directors themselves someday.

Never let the arrogance of experience keep you from continuously absorbing new ideas. Don’t work in a place that keeps you from furthering your education in your current field or adjacent fields that interest you.

Do you feel challenged?

As much as some people would argue that they prefer an easy job, I don’t believe they’re being honest with themselves. Sitting around an office without ever being challenged is torturous.

You’ll be in front of the computer for at least 8 hours a day and spend maybe 3-4 of those hours working. The rest of the time will be filled with boredom and idle fuckery. You’ll browse Victoria’s Secret or read some new junk on Reddit. You’ll waste away.

Me, I prefer to be constantly challenged. I want the trial by fire. If my current job is not challenging me, then it’s time to move on. I refuse to spin my wheels for years in a position just because it is comfortable.

Don’t let complacency take over just because you’re afraid of change. Go out and look for the obstacles that, when overcome, will mold you into a better person. Those are some of life’s most invaluable experiences.

Is your opinion valued?

Are you always being told what to do or do your superiors and peers in your daily working life listen to and understand what you have to say?

I always want a seat at the table when I’m working. I am obsessed with organization and efficiency and I want to be able to contribute in a meaningful way to the company. I’m not just there to punch the clock and then drive home.

If there’s no room for your voice to be heard and the ears that your ideas fall on are never receptive, then you’ll want to consider looking elsewhere.

A great company will receive any and all feedback and act on what is most pertinent. It’s part of the aforementioned ability of a business to adapt to the changing landscape. Don’t run in place.

If you have methods and processes that will benefit your organization, find a way to be heard. If that means finding a new company that values their employees’ opinions, then so be it.

Don’t let a good idea go to waste just because the idiots in charge aren’t paying attention.