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.

3 Things That Make Me Incredibly Happy and Why

It’s easy to go through a normal week of routine and wallow in the pain of the moment. With so many minor pieces of your day and week that don’t go exactly as planned, it’s common for people to internalize and catastrophize small obstacles.

Instead of telling someone or yourself to minimize the seriousness of the struggle, instead focus that energy on remembering things that did go your way. Find aspects of your life experience to be grateful for. Be thankful for the myriad of good things and details that far outweigh the bad.

Like I’ve done below, grab a piece of paper and jot down 3 things that make you incredibly happy and the exact reasons why they elicit that kind of response from you. This exercise will go a long way in helping you realize that there are things in life to be happy about and the reasons they make you happy can teach you additional strategies for finding your happiness elsewhere by employing similar methodology or recognizing common threads. 

80s/90s Pop Culture

In times of trouble, I always find myself retreating back to the last sane moment I ever knew. I am grateful that my childhood was full of happiness and toys and sprite-based video games and parents who loved me. Because of this, when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, hopeless, or lost in a sea of negativity, I turn to 80s/90s pop culture to fill the emotional void.

In recent years, nostalgia has been a big business. Why would a flailing company or movie studio not lean on rebooting, re-releasing, or re-packaging their existing properties when they know there is a market of 30-40 year olds who will buy it up with grins on their faces?

I’ve just always held a torch for this era of pop culture and it spans many different mediums from the late 80s into the mid-late 90s. Whether it be advertisements, discontinued snack foods, movies, television shows, toys, music, video games, clothing, board games, or sports equipment, there’s a place in my heart for that whole aural ambience and aesthetic.

As you may or may not know, I’m “sort of” a collector of these kinds of material things and memories. I say “sort of” because I’m far to OCD and minimalistic to actually be a “collector” of anything. I’m not a completionist in that regard. I have having stacks of things. I hate clutter. I’m all about the aesthetic appeal in a controlled, manageable dose that makes me happy.

That’s what this whole post is about, things that make me happy. These trinkets on my desk, music on my Spotify, movies on my Amazon Prime, posters on my wall, and cartridges in my Super Nintendo make me genuinely happy and remind me of childhood times that were simple, happy, and care-free. Looking at, touching, and hearing all of these pieces of memory inspire me creatively and make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That always seems to be the feeling that I’m chasing and it’s nice to have a few material objects that help get me there.

Driving down the Road in Autumn with the Heat On, Music Blasting, and the Windows Open

Even though fall is the most fleeting season of all, it’s also the most romantic. The smell in the air and the cool crispness of the breeze are extremely nostalgic and familiar to my senses. Football and Hockey return. A road winding into the distance surrounded by dramatically-colored leaves is a common sight. My weekends are filled with pumpkin patches, hot cider with bourbon, and lots of ginger snaps.

My favorite part of the fall season, however, is a very personal experience. Living out somewhere between truly rural and kind of suburban southeastern Pennsylvania, wooded roads are all around. There’s nothing like a cold, late October night, a great album, the windows rolled down and the heat blasting while you twist and turn down a dark road in your car.

There’s something about that experience that floods my head with so many layers of memories, inspiration, and outright joy. It is an experience unique to temperate deciduous regions of earth, but it’s a quiet moment that every living person should experience at least once.

Solo Hikes with Headphones On

Much like the above event, hiking by yourself is extremely personal. You’re breathing heavy and you’re sweating as the music pumps in your ears. You look around and catch a glimpse of a random bird, squirrel, chipmunk, even a wild turkey or deer on rare occasions. You walk up hills and alongside creeks. You stop to take a look at a family of ducks sliding through a pond. All is at peace and all is at one.

Not only are solo hikes great exercise and great for your mental wellbeing, they give you time to think and appreciate the minute details of life. All the trees and plants and animals are existing in this space with you and the serenity of the moment is a shared experience.

I don’t think I look forward to any type of exercise more than I do hiking alone.

Why It’s Better to Choose Bewilderment over Panic

In times of political and social upheaval and attacks on commonly-held ways of thinking, it’s easy to hit the panic button and explode into Nostradamus-like predictions of worldly destruction. That kind of thinking does not lead to change, answers, or progress, however. It’s better to take your misunderstanding by the horns and lead it to new places of self-discovery, skepticism, and eventual insights that could help shape the future.

I recently picked up Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” and, like a canary in a coal mine, its loud tweets have been a wake up call to my own way of thinking. The following passage, on which this article will be based, spoke to me in such a way that it’s helping me realize my own internal panic and has inspired me to try to guide it toward someplace different:

“We are still in the nihilist movement of disillusionment and anger, after people have lost faith in the old stories but before they have embraced a new one. So what next? The first step is to tone down the prophecies of doom and switch from panic mode to bewilderment. Panic is a form of hubris. It comes from the smug feeling that one knows exactly where the world is heading: down. Bewilderment is more humble and therefore more clear-sighted. Do you feel like running down the street crying ‘The apocalypse is upon us’? Try telling yourself, ‘No, it’s not that. Truth is, I just don’t understand what’s going on in the world’”

I’ve always been an opinionated person and my obvious sarcastic cynicism has largely been a result of life not living up to my idealistic worldview. Through my own convictions, I guess my lean has always been toward the left, however, because I trend toward progressive thought. Equality, a removal of gender and racial bias, empowerment and mobility of all social castes, anti-tribalism, and the pursuit of counter culture ideologies have always been part of my way of thinking.

It really all goes back to my intrinsic hatred toward religion. I know this is antithetical to the idea of equality, but the idea of mythical tribalism impeding scientific thought and influence cultures and inciting violence worldwide has always been a point of contention with me. I understand its role in providing comfort, basic morals, a sense of community, and an otherworldly motivation for early man to push harder and go farther, but I feel it has outlived its usefulness. This opinion is not part of the overall purpose of this article, however, but it’s useful in framing the idea of bewilderment vs. panic. While the panic of religious folk has always been a fear of the holy apocalypse, my own internal panic has been the death of progress and the propagation of tyranny.

With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I’ve felt waves of panic. Conservatives can call me a snowflake or complain about manufactured doomsday prophecies all they wish, but that same manufactured doomsday talk is what got their chosen leaders elected as well. Fear of immigrants, fear of minorities, fear of homosexuals, fear of women and those last-minute grasps for power in a country that started to look unfamiliar to those who pine for 1950s America are the very disenfranchised votes needed to elect someone like Donald Trump.

Internally, I’ve felt that 2016 was a turning point for not only America, but the world at large. Isolationism, tribalism, jingoism, and every other ism defined by this overt fear of other humans and the innate need to build metaphorical and literal walls around yourself, your home, your country to prevent it from being lost forever have become everyday parts of human existence over the last few years. Every ugly panic button that humanity has ever buried deep within their consciousness has been called upon like a dark Bat signal and people’s fears are being harnessed worldwide for both profit and power.

This panic, this fear, this is what humanity as a whole needs to understand and change in order to move forward. Like I said earlier, I too am a victim of this inaccurate and dangerous way of thinking. I’ve fallen into cynicism even further than I’d already been. I’ve always held a cocky attitude toward my own intellect and understanding and assumed everyone else was wrong or too stupid to understand the truth. I’ve been beaten down by the 24/7 news cycle, the tragedies that have surrounded me, friends and family, and innocent people in general. It’s easy to assume the sky is falling with all the evidence we have around us. I’m here to implore you to reconsider your assumptions.

Bewilderment, as Harari described, is more “humble.” Humbleness, lacking pride or arrogance, is a sentiment that has been largely lost by popular human society. We take no time to admit that we’re wrong or that we lack understanding when situations are presented to us. Harari’s point is a poignant one because if we’d take the time to admit that we don’t know where we stand or where we’re going, we’d be able to break down our own and the world’s own complex shortcomings and work to poke holes, heal, and fix the broken state of the world before us.

Bewilderment allows for new possibilities to emerge and espouses a self-awareness not often seen in 2018. Looking inward is one of the most important exercises in mental health and it creates an objective vantage point from which true revelations can be gleaned. Just like how I fully admit that I’m a manipulative but empathetic, narcissistic but caring, gluttonous but generous, offensive but ever-changing amalgamation of evil and goodness in a constant state of identity crisis, so too should everyone take some quiet moments to reflect on the energy you direct inwards as well as out into the world and its ripple effect on the world around you and the people it touches.

Harari uses the example of the fall of liberal democracy in the same way that fascism and communism have fallen over the last century and uses it as a voice to not criticize unfairly or cry wolf about the phenomenon, but to help shape future conversations and save a worldview that is in danger of being lost forever.

Too long have people chosen fear over acceptance, skepticism, and understanding and the time has come to choose this perplexity over the arrogant assumptions about the fall of civilization. Approaching each problem and situation as an onlooker allows you to fully appreciate all of the clues, context, and evidence that can lead to new ideas. Maybe the answer shouldn’t be returning to the old ways, but moving on to new ways. It’s only through open dialogue, admission of misunderstanding, and unbiased examination that we can ever hope of getting there.

Removing Negative People from Your Life Ethically

Much like the reality that you can’t please everyone, it’s also a universal truth that not everyone can please you either. There will always be negative forces in everyday life that threaten your ability to be happy, healthy, mentally stable, growing, and/or your best version of yourself.

These negative people may resent your successes, cling to your place of subservience in their life, feel jealous, or prefer stagnation to change.

The effects of these feelings on the way the negative person treats you can range from anger to manipulation to outright cruelty and a whole mess of dangerous emotions and reactions in between. They are sabotaging every step forward you take and clinging to your wrists to hold you back in their sad little rut.

It’s time you commit to identifying, understanding, and removing these people from your life before they steal more pieces of your precious life that you can never get back.

Treat Yourself Kindly

The primary place to start when considering any major changes to your life or social group is thinking “Is this what’s best for me and my well-being?”

Way beyond the impact on other people, consider any development or self-improvement steps you take in your life for their actual ramifications. Positive changes should make you happier, more fulfilled, and improve you mental, physical, and emotional state. It should feel like a weight is lifted.

Don’t turn the bad things people project and bring into your life back on yourself. You are the architect of your own happiness. Make an effort to consider all angles and what makes you happy as a person.

Self-care is the crux of every decision worth making.

Examine your Flaws and Maladaptive Behaviors

In the same way that you treat yourself with care and respect, you should also consider yourself with honest eyes and ears. Make sure you’re not the problem, angry, cruel, or resentful in the relationship before you decide to sever ties.

Consider your own flaws and shortcomings and how they might affect others. Examine your maladaptive behaviors closely. Do your actions hurt or manipulate others? Are you lying often? Do you consider anyone else’s feelings but your own? Are you giving back what you take from people?

Ask yourself probing questions and give yourself honest answers. Write down how you’re feeling in a private journal and keep track of your moods and behaviors for a few weeks.

Understanding your own behavior and thinking patterns is an immeasurably valuable exercise.

Create, Communicate, and Maintain Boundaries

Some people have difficulty brainstorming boundaries that they need between themselves and other people in order to remain in a good state of mind. The genesis of these boundaries should take place early on in the relationship when you start to see how you and the other person intermingle.

However you physically and mentally deal with each other should give you a good idea of where a line needs to be drawn between friendliness and overbearance or between advice and hurtful criticism.

Once the boundaries have been created, be sure to communicate them with a thoughtful cadence upfront and also at a few key points along the way, should situations call for a re-establishment.

The communication and maintenance of personal space and personal limits allows you to set ground rules and preemptively negate a significant proportion of over-stepping in the average individual.

Speak Your Feelings and Thoughts Directly

Along with the communication of boundaries, your opinions and feelings should be communicated openly.

If someone is hurting you or making you feel threatened or bad about yourself, feel free to speak up. If the other person reacts negatively to your honest opinion, then they are the perfect example of someone you should cut out of your life. People worth your time will take it upon themselves to listen and shift their behavior when it’s causing you pain.

Don’t pussyfoot around the point you’re trying to make either. Pick your words carefully and bluntly describe your thoughts so as to minimize any sort of interpersonal confusion or mixed signals.

Don’t Get Manipulated by Guilt

Manipulative people have many tricks up their sleeves that they use to paint you into corners that give them exactly what they want: control. Don’t let their guilt tactics eat away at your resolve.

You do not owe anyone anything.

If a man who wants you romantically has spent time talking to you for a long time and you don’t harbor these same romantic feelings, you do not owe it to him to continue talking. You can disappear off the face of the earth, if you wish, and that’s okay. Your safety is the utmost concern and not the opinions or expectations of others.

If you don’t feel like responding to someone, don’t respond. If you’d rather not attend a social event, then don’t attend. There may be social consequences, if they are friendships you’d rather maintain, but the choice is yours.

You can’t please everybody and you can only do what is in your best interest. When you have true friends and meaningful relationships beyond those you wish to sever, then you may make more selfless decisions because their actions have given you the trust and security needed to feel comfortable about it, but don’t force it.

Don’t let the expectations of your acquaintances dictate your behavior, if it’s not the behavior you want to be associated with or it’s not in your best interest.

Free Others from Expectations While Freeing Yourself

In all fairness, levying these types of boundaries and taking your own life back into your own hands is only great if it’s even-handed.

Now that you’ve considered so many of the ways other people influence and dictate your own life, take a moment to survey how you treat people as well.

It’s not right to expect a certain level of flexibility in others and not grant them the same privilege. Make sure you’re not the negative person influencing other people’s lives in harmful ways. Take stock in your role in the lives of those close to you and what benefits you mutually provide each other.

If the relationship only goes in one direction, it’s time to either change or reconsider the way you interact, no matter which side the greediness is coming from.

Practice Acceptance

Maybe a relationship you once treasured has now veered out of control into dangerous territory. Don’t blame yourself. That is not always a bad thing. People come into and leave our lives constantly and that is just the way that life needs to pan out sometimes.

Don’t fret and regret and obsess over the changes you’ve made to your life, wondering if it was the right decision. We’re all where we are supposed to be in any given moment. It’s not that there’s no room for forgiveness, but that will take time. In the present context, you’re better off.

Take a deep breath, accept the choices you’ve made, and take solace in the fact that you’re actively taking the wheel when it comes to your own personal growth and development. Any brick you lay that takes you one step closer to happiness is a worthy pursuit.

My Favorite Poem in “Forage” by Rita Wong

I’ve always been a supreme fan of poetry. Having written my own shitty verses for decades now, I took a scholastic approach in college and spent a long time learning about post-modern poetry and the various veins of expression that modern poets took.

The idea of poetry strikes me as the highest form of language. It takes all the pieces of language that matter: context, sound, rhythm, pace, emotion, truth, shape, form, purpose, and places them into a package where all of the beauty of words can be experienced in one place.

Rita Wong is a Canadian poet who has authored several collections of note. Her words take a very semantic dissection of heavy topics such as the environment, social justice, decolonization, and the way in which human beings can take words and assemble them in a poetic fashion to elicit emotional truths and evoke change through a unity of experience.

In her words:

“A poem can begin with a feeling, a word, a sound, an experience, an intuition. I tend to write short bits that accumulate over time. There are recurring obsessions and themes, though they are not always conscious when I begin writing.”

This approach to gathering your thoughts as they spring up in your mind instead of trying to force ideas to flow freely is akin to my own creative process. When I sit down and “try” to write, nothing comes. I can spew out very robotic, calculated phrases, but it doesn’t pour from me organically the way it does when a certain kind of muse strikes me.

Her second collection, Forage, (from which I’m taking the poem “resuscitate” to talk about here) criticizes the way western society uses force and power politics while taking the time to work in various poetic styles to reinforce her points.

In the margins, you’ll find pictures and quotes that help reiterate the points of the poetry and also give a historical and modern look at the state of countries rebuilding themselves from within after decolonization and the wills of power-hungry people. It takes special care to explain the pitfalls and lingering effects these dynamic shifts can have on a populace and an individual, from self-identity to self-worth.

The poem opens with an immediate death metaphor, but also draws me into a sort of romantic sensibility or a cry to a lover to fit into a certain mold:

“could sleep for centuries until you break my skin, draw up my mutinous juices, could lie fallow and expectant, dormant through winters of discontent, seasons of ceaseless rain, could be graphed and quartered and undergo the hand of cartographers until the northern lights dim with exhaustion,…”

The speaker is talking about being docile and overly-accommodating. The term “fallow” being used to invoke the period that a field is plowed and left unsown in order to restore its fertility. The speaker will weather the storm of unsatisfying love and affection and lay dormant until those “mutinous juices” or the gas fire of opinion and life-bringing energy wells up inside once again.

The “hand of cartographers” implies the unfair mapping, categorizing, and “quartering” or disassembling of her body and identity at the hands of an onlooker. It makes me visualize a judge applying regions to someone’s sense of self without their agency.

“…still you might never appear in the incarnation i desire, the precise contour of resolve and steadfast sinew i seek to anchor my sororitas surges, my maternal imperatives, my infant divinations, are you hurricane or torrent, engineer’s shovel or crane’s lament?”

The speaker is disappointed in someone’s position in their life. The need for someone to be resolute, strong, and able to wrangle feelings of sisterhood, motherhood, and child-like assumptions is communicated bluntly.

Asking “are you hurricane or torrent, engineer’s shovel or crane’s lament?” breaks down a question of accountability and power. A hurricane is a force of unbridled energy while a torrent is contained and controlled into a useful stream of energy instead of shapeless mass. An engineer’s shovel is a useful metaphor for describing intent and deliberate action instead of a crane’s lament which is movement under the control of another.

This particular part of the poem always resonated with me because it is a question that all humans must contend with. Are we masters of our own destiny in the driver’s seat or are we simply the tools of someone more powerful and influential than ourselves and we’re driven solely by the need to please them?

The poem ends with extremely poignant imagery of the mark that humankind can leave on the world:

“…could wrap our spent bodies into the textures of igneous, sediment, underground streams until the crows and ravens chatter distress in suburban neighbourhoods, in hopes our porous husks feed hunters, gatherers, compassionate world-eaters”

Is all the trying worth it? We all end up used up, encased in stone, our energy flowing through underground streams. Our only worth comes when the crows and ravens in suburban neighborhoods speak our names and our tragedies, an allusion to the way that world crises only seem to become a matter worth talking about once they reach white, wealthy, western areas.

The speaker’s final hope is that their porous husks, their fragile forms, will leave some lasting and positive impact on the next wave of men who consume the planet for their means, assuming they have compassionate intent.

The liner of the page reads:

“I would rather unleash fire than have fire unleash me.” – Richard Van Camp

This quote sums up the feeling of the poem very succinctly. We are to be the agents of our self-identity, self-worth, and the impact we have on the world around us. It is not for tragedy and unexpected horrors to shape us, but for us to unleash the explosive force within before we let it take control. We are the masters of our own perspective.

I hope you enjoyed reading this poetry treatment as much as I did writing it and I highly recommend picking up this book of poetry, if you’re interested in the subject matter.