26 Incredible Things I’ve Learned In 26 Years

I turned 26 last week.

Some people say that 26 is an important year.

But some people also say that vaccines cause autism, so I’m not sure if they’re to be believed.

What I do know is that 25 was a rocking year, of which I spent only 6 days in my home country of Canada.

I’d say if I proved anything over the course of the year, it’s that you don’t need a lot of money to lead a rich life.

What with all the traveling, language learning, website growing, relationship building, and other incredibly rewarding experiences I’ve had over the last 365 days, and most of it without the advantages of a sexy bank balance.

That life lesson is just one of the 26 I’ve compiled for you, which I’ve learned during my first 26 years of life.

As with any list, pick out the most important thing you can implement today and get to it – I’m not here just to be your intellectual entertainment. (You can consider that a bonus, 27th lesson on the house)

Let’s get to it:

1. Simplicity > Organization

The human brain was clearly designed with bureaucracy in mind. After all, over thousands of years on the savannah we had to keep track of hunting balance sheets for tax season, prioritize domestic projects, schedule tribe meetings, create to do lists, and on top of all that, keep the tent spotless. All without an iPhone. *sigh*

Stupid Rock™ keeps deleting my to do lists.
Stupid Rock™ keeps deleting my to-do lists.

While organization clearly has value in a lot of areas, I think we make a big mistake when it’s our default position. Often, the energy input to create and maintain an organizational system is excessive in comparison to the value of what’s being organized.

I’ve gotten so much more accomplished since I stopped trying to be organized and focused on eliminating the unnecessary, doing 1 thing at a time, and listening to my inner priorities.

Leo Babauta of ZenHabits is my go-to guy when it comes to simplicity, and he too believes it’s the most streamlined and elegant way to get important things done.

Pro Tip: When in doubt, throw it out.

2. The Productivity Paradox

“My boyfriend is go good in bed. He’s such a…a…an efficient lover”
-No woman, EVER

The never ending search for increased productivity is a byproduct of the industrial revolution and the technologies that allowed us to mass produce new goods. It was a relevant and logical step at the time, but today it’s become out of control and dysfunctional, taking over parts of our lives productivity shouldn’t touch.

Think about all the most important things in your life – the things that really bring you joy: conversations with friends, time with family, hobbies, recreation, relaxation, a good novel or engaging film – whatever it is that makes you tick.

The most important things in life are the sorts of things you never, ever want the idea of productivity to come within a million neurons of.

And that’s the core of the productivity paradox: by searching for productivity, we lose focus of what’s most important.

Before ever asking ourselves if we’re being productive, we have to ask ourselves “Is this worthwhile?”

Fun Fact: There are no limits to what you can accomplish when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Additional Reading: Living With Purpose; 5 Simple Habits to Increase Productivity

3. There Are 2 Types of Selfishness

Selfishness gets a bad rap. Most of the time, it’s deserved, as mature adults wander around fulfilling their hedonistic desires without a thought for their fellow beings. But we really need to see the other side of selfishness – the side that empowers us to do good for others, and often do so more effectively than so-called “selflessness.”

For instance, if we only get 4 hours of sleep every night, don’t eat properly, and sacrifice our important reltionships because we’re out feeding the destitute, that’s incredibly noble of us, but it won’t be sustainable.

If we don’t completely burn out, we’re going to be – at a minimum – decreasing our effectiveness throughout the entire day with all our responsibilities. And quite possibly we’re reducing our lifespan in the process.

Whoops!

If, on the other hand, we didn’t sacrifice sleep, ate proper meals, and kept a strong support network, that might mean slightly less impact today, but we could contribute much more to the world over our entire lives. Plus those contributions will be of higher quality, since we’ve taken good care of our minds and bodies!

Of course, it’s not black and white. Punctuated periods of “excessive” or “extreme” altruistic behavior are important – think disaster relief. It’s chronic, excessive behavior we need to be careful of, because that’s what will limit our abilities to do good over the long term.

Putting yourself first so that you can contribute your biggest gifts to the world is selfish, sure – but it’s exactly the kind of selfishness we need more of.

Warning: This idea needs a lot of maturity behind it, otherwise we may end up being self-serving and telling ourselves it’s for the greater good. Use with caution and plenty of self-reflection.

4. Speed of Recovery > Not Failing

In life, setbacks happen pretty much constantly – especially if you’re someone who is doggedly pursuing their goals. The more we attempt to achieve, the more roadblocks we will inevitably run into.

It’s much more important to learn how to overcome these setbacks than it is to avoid them. It allows us to make progress much more quickly than trying to be perfect all the time.

Anyone can succeed when the path is straight, wide, well-paved, and free of debris. But usually, the paths to the things we want most go through haunted woods with creepy crawlies that bite, sting, and scratch. We get pulled into the swamp, our tuxedo – now muddy, gets ruffled and crumpled; Our spotless visage and perfectly coiffed hairdo get splattered in mud; And we can either run back screaming to the safety and comfort of funny cat videos on YouTube, or we can soldier on and learn to overcome these minor yet persistent inconveniences.

In life and love, the first time is usually the worst time – pick yourself up and try again.

5. Being Decisive Makes Us Ready

How often have you waited on a big dream because you felt you weren’t ready? Going for the promotion, asking the coffee-shop cutie for a date, taking that vacation you’ve been dreaming of for years, starting a business, getting back into a hobby, running a marathon, etc.

So many people would be getting better results in life if they stopped waiting for conditions to be perfect or to have more information to get their rears in gear.

It’s hard to be decisive – as most of us have been conditioned to believe that mistakes are bad, and we will be punished for screwing up.

Well I say that waiting for the world to meet our needs is even worse punishment. It erodes our self esteem and self-efficacy – the sense that we have some control over our fate.

Just within the last year, decisiveness meant I got to do a bike tour of southern France, meet one of my childhood friends on Ibiza, develop an amazing relationship in Thailand, find a dream marketing job, and create one of the fastest growing advice blogs on the internet.

Wanna know a secret? Most of the time, I have no freakin’ clue what I’m doing. But it’s not necessary. Needing certainty is just an excuse to procrastinate. Being decisive beats being certain almost every time (brain surgery and rocket launches are notable exceptions, but they are few and far between), because we get to test our ideas in the real world, get feedback, and build momentum.

How To: Think about the worst-case scenario and if you can handle it. You’re even allowed to be melodramatic in your daydreaming. Then, realize that even if this nightmare scenario comes to pass, you’ll probably be okay. Then be like my corporate sponsor Nike* and Just Do It.
*just kidding

6. Goal Setting Sucks

Numerous studies in the far flung fields of psychology and business have shown that people who set specific goals have more success and are happier.

Conversely, people with no goals or very general goals, such as “I want to be happier” or “I want to be rich” tend to be less fulfilled.
Then why the heck would I say goal setting sucks?

Because there’s an equally large and convincing pool of data showing that most goals fail, and that a huge number of people hate goal setting.

How to bridge the gap?

With a simple, yet key reframe. It’s not people who set specific goals that succeed and are happy, it’s people who have specific goals.

The setting part is the problem – it’s trying to externally define what’s important and interesting to us. It’s trying to take the dynamic ebb and flow of our desires into a static thing. I can “set” a goal to make a million dollars or lose 20 pounds, but that doesn’t make me want it. It doesn’t motivate, or help overcome obstacles.

Having a goal is completely different. It’s an intrinsic desire that won’t simply disappear when we run into inevitable challenges. It doesn’t require any motivational techniques to feel supercharged inspiration. That’s why some people are so successful in areas where the majority of others fail, such as weight loss.

How: Making lists are a great way to get out of your own head, but don’t let them tell you what you should be doing. Only honest self-reflection can do that. This is a skill you can learn.

The simplest way to develop it is to spend some time identifying your true desires (past all the surface nonsense like buying some stupid infomercial crap) and then acting on them. Before you act, take some time to think about whether this is in line with your deepest, most honest desires or not. Then after you act, reflect upon whether or not your previous assessment was accurate.

7. Slow the F*ck Down!

When I look around – whether it’s been in North America, Asia, or Europe, I see people scrambling about frantically trying to get more done. Chasing time. Chasing productivity. As if they’re all racing to see who can reach the end of their lives first.

At such breakneck speeds, it probably won’t take long. Or at least…it won’t feel like it.

As we discussed in the productivity paradox, the most important things in life aren’t things we do “productively.”

This really goes hand in hand with simplicity. They compliment each other like cheese in a garden salad.

If we’re always searching for more speed, more productivity, more activity, then we’ve just told ourselves that we’re never going to be satisfied. We can always go a bit faster or do a bit more.

By slowing down, we’re allowing ourselves to enjoy the things around us – the things in our present – our current experience. You know, the stuff that will comprise our entire life.

Stopping to smell the roses, eat the cake, feel the spider crawling up your leg, and watch our sun’s daily lecture on nuclear fission will enrich your life. Don’t miss out.

Pro Tip: I think one of the healthiest things a modern person can do is to walk in the park and read a nice book – fiction.

It’s slow. It’s engaging. It’s a whole miniature world of experience. I’d recommend A Song of Ice And Fire (“Game of Thrones”).

8. Ride the Wave, Embrace cycles, Flow

Our world runs on cycles.

Menstrual cycles, lunar cycles, seasonal cycles, laundry cycles, sleep cycles, bicycles.

There is a lot to be said for routine. However, much of that is an angry rant.

Trying to create sameness day in and day out has a caustic effect on our minds. It’s little wonder so many people get themselves stuck in a rut. Our interest and energy changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, and trying to pummel the peaks and fill up the valleys so we can have a flat line doesn’t work.

It’s kid of like your pulse. Flat lines mean either you’re dead or you’re about to be without an immediate intervention.

cycles and flatline
Hey now, don’t do that!

Being in sync with the cycles in our lives, we may not be as objectively productive, but we’ll be way more fulfilled – as we’ll be doing the things we actually care about in each moment.

How To: 5-10 minutes of introspection upon waking and before sleeping are great ways to assess if we’re doing things we truly desire, or if we’re doing things we feel we’re “supposed” to. If you’re deep in the latter category, consider waking up earlier to spend 30 minutes to 1 hour every day for something dedicated entirely to your wants and needs.

9. The World Isn’t Out to Get You

I just happened to publish this article exactly 1 year since leaving Canada for a lifetime of exploring planet Earth.

One strange thing I’ve noticed traveling the world is that the locals in big cities tend to claim that their city is a dangerous place to be, coupled with a smorgasbord of warnings.

I’ve heard it in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Saint Petersburg, Russia. New York and Paris. And while listening to locals is one of the best ways to learn about a city, things are rarely as deadly they’re made out to be – either from word of mouth or mass media.

I’ve heard that I couldn’t/shouldn’t drive a motorbike in Thailand, trek a tall hill (or was it a small mountain?) on Sicily. Hitchhiking and CouchSurfing both evoke fear from many.

I’ve met strangers from all walks of live all over the globe, and the thing I can say with certainty is that most people are friendly and helpful.

It’s normal to be afraid of things we don’t understand – and that includes other cultures and the people that comprise them. Normal – but not good or desirable.

One of the reasons I recommend travel – and not the prestigious, resort-based travel that keeps us isolated from the culture of our target country – is that it gives us the opportunity to interact with so many colorful characters, and to see that the world is an overwhelmingly friendly place to be.

Hooray! Getting to know people helps bridge the gaps we feel and see between cultures, remove the fear we have of strangers, and build inclusive communities.

10. Success Lies in the Will to do What Others Won’t

The internet is awash in advice about how to lead a successful life, most of it in list form. Like this gem called “3 Timeless Ways to be Happier” that I found on every freakin’ website ever:

Smile more. Be grateful. Hug a puppy. The End.

All true, but functionally useless.

Change, progress, results, bringing something new into our lives is rarely the result of listening to these nebulous pieces of non-wisdom.

Often, we know the thing that will truly make a difference, but it’s uncomfortable and uncertain, so we keep inducing migraines by smashing our head against a brick wall, and then consoling ourselves with these vapid platitudes. Fine. That’s a valid option.

The reason a select few people get extraordinary results isn’t because they have access to some secret knowledge or technique unavailable to the rest of us (the exception proving the rule: bankers rigging the Libor Rate), it’s because they’re willing to do what others won’t.

This is often an investment of emotion, not money – such as phoning up someone working for your prospective employer and scheduling a lunch meeting to learn about the company, calling a friend to apologize for a wrongdoing, waking up earlier to work on a hobby or important personal project, or setting aside 5% of their paycheck before expenses for a college/retirement/rainy day fund.

Pro Tip: Being uncomfortable sucks, but being stuck is worse. Often, you can start to make progress by taking the smallest possible step.

For instance, if you’re looking for a life-partner, don’t think about that – think “I’m going to talk to 3 people [of my target gender] every day” and build from there.

11. Excess in Moderation

Possibly my favorite concept, because it destroys this black and white “x is good, y is bad” dichotomy.

Human beings, like most living creatures, are well adapted to handling, short, intense periods of stress. Think “fight or flight.” Once the danger or other stressor has passed, we return to a normal, stable state fairly readily.

And this can involve positive stressors too – consider studies showing short intense workouts often have superior performance effects than long, low-intensity ones. And that’s not even including the dysfunction that can often result from repetitive motion (think shin splints from pounding the pavement too much).

This is what I call excess in moderation. We’re able to recover from an all nighter, a day of moving heavy objects, a day of not eating, a day of no human contact without much problem.

But we can’t cope when these things are chronic, low level stressors – it destroys us. Obesity, burnout, depression, loneliness – these are not acute problems. They take time to fester and erode.

So, is cake – one of the most frequent guest foods on this website, a good or bad food? It’s not either. It depends if we’re an occasional cake connoisseur or a chronic cake abuser.

Pro Tip: Enjoy!

chocolate covered happiness
Chomp!

12. Stop Pidgeon-Holing People – Starting With YOU.

I’ve been asked countless times on my travels whether I’m vegan. To which my only honest answer can be “only when I’m not delighting in scrumptious animal products.”

Labels are great for knowing whether there’s dolphin in our tuna, or the blood of child slaves on our diamonds (hint: there’s a reason the diamon industry eschews labelling), but they’re a bad way to think about ourselves. They’re divisive and exclusive. They create power imbalances. By responding to the vegan question, I’m immediately casting myself as either an insider or outsider.

But we like these things. In fact, we often search for one label in particular: our purpose.

I’ve given up the practice, since it’s another example of trying to make our dynamic world static, and ignores the fact that our desires change over time. (See point #8 above)

The labels we have keep us prisoner in the roles they define.

You can’t stop others from labeling you, but you can sure as heck stop perpetuating the madness by not labeling yourself and others.

How: Stick to individual facts. Bob isn’t vegan, he hasn’t eaten meat in 3.5 years.

Larissa isn’t a democrat, she voted for Obama and supports the current/next democratic nominee. It sounds the same, but it’s not. This liberates us from having to conform to an imposed standard. If I’m vegan, I can’t touch the chicken stew without cognitive dissonance. But if I haven’t eaten meat in 3.5 years, I have a choice.

13. Craziness With The Cult of Consciousness

Scientists may not have all the mysteries of consciousness worked out – yet, but there’s one thing about it that’s no mystery at all:
Consciousness loves consciousness.

In fact, it’s stemmed a whole cult of consciousness worshipers, who hail consciousness as some sort of miraculous, mystical force binding us together. Or binding the whole universe together.

These are fairly bold claims for a narcissist, because in case you haven’t noticed, consciousness is actually worshiping itself.

narcissus
Why hello there handsome…

I think it’s rather more likely that consciousness is just the latest fancy biotechnology the process of evolution has cooked up. That doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best. Ants invented agriculture 50 million years before humans did (we’re actually the 4th species to do so), and are a far more successful species in many regards. They don’t use consciousness to make it happen.

And I think it’s highly important that we recognize this bias we have towards our own set of biological tools. Otherwise, we are – more irony – blindly putting ourselves above our fellow creatures and then making errors in judgment as a result.

We miss obvious facts like the first “dog” (wolf) wasn’t captured and forced into submission by superior humans. IT CHOSE US as the perfect species to form a symbiotic relationship.

And it was correct. From the dog’s perspective, we have been seduced into spreading their genes all across the world in numbers early dogs would have drooled at.

Why it matters: I think it’s important to see us as an integrated and equal partner in the Earth’s biosphere. If we want to treat our fellow creatures with compassion, then we have to recognize the value of the tools they have to succeed in life and not overvalue our own too much by comparison.

14. There’s no Magic Answer – We Have to Build This World Ourselves

Magic makes for romantic fairy tales and gruesome real-life ones.

Take CTHC arch-nemesis Karma. If Karma existed, then thousands of natural disaster victims every year, including babies, are being punished for…god knows what. I don’t want to live in such a cruel world – and thankfully – I don’t.

To that end, believing that the universe is looking out for us also breeds complacency in the face of suffering. I think it’s important to help eradicate poverty, war, famine, and look out for the environment because if we don’t, nothing else will!

We have to build the world we want to live in – for ourselves, for our children, and for all the people we’ll never meet but are tired to – not through karma or magic – but the fact that we have a shared history, share this planet, and will continue sharing our experience of it for as long as such things are possible.

We are the solution to the challenges we face, end of story.

There’s only 1 magic word that will solve all your problems: Change

How To: Take responsibility for your own life. Nobody else will do it for you. That means acting with integrity and not waiting for someone to come save you. Every week I assess what I am and am not taking responsibility for in my life, and I try to move things from the latter column to the former.

15. Chasing Immortality

Based on what I know about human nature and everything I’ve observed over the last 26 years, it appears that we have a deep yearning for immortality.

Not necessarily living forever, though that’s part of it. But being remembered when we do. Building a legacy.

And I suspect it is this desire that causes us so much pain when we fail to make a lot of money or gain recognition and prestige for our work. It implies that we’re not important. We won’t be remembered. Wikipedia will not keep a record of our deeds for all time.

Charlemagne. Sun Tzu. Caesar. Ptolemy. Saladin. Joan of Arc. Hammurabi. You may recognize these names, but I’d wager that unless you have a particular interest in history, you can’t explain what they did or why they were important. And those are the most famous 0.01% in history.

Compared to them, what chance do we have?

But there’s a flip side to this, if we can learn to see it – and live based on it. It means that we’re free to do exactly what we desire most, specifically because (statistically speaking) we won’t be remembered either way. It’s pointless to waste our time chasing legacy – unless those are our true, deepest, most honest actions.

This is some hyper-advanced stuff, since it drives straight to the core of our humanity, but if we can realize this need for recognition, acclaim, fame, prestige, and legacy is vapor, it frees us in the most powerful way imaginable.

16. The World Is Improving All the Time

We live in an amazing time and an amazing world. While there are still problems to solve and challenges to overcome, the picture of doom and gloom painted by the 24 hour news cycle is far, far removed from the truth.

First of all, look at the ridiculous, miraculous technology that’s been integrated into your life. Appreciate that for a minute or two. Or always.

Now look at how we’re eradicating poverty, largely through empowering women:

Now look at this video of puppies cuddling with kittens.

See? the world is a wonderful place, and it keeps getting better.

Pro Tip: It’s not time to be complacent. There’s still a lot of social injustice to rectify, an environmental crisis to avert, war, famine and poverty to eradicate – but most of the data shows that we’re succeeding (the environmental crisis being the big unknown)

17. Laughter Isn’t Only The Best Medicine…

I think that, on average, we take life far too seriously. We put so much gravity into every little decision and action that it turns life into a grueling march through the mud.

Way too much work, not enough play. Breaking news: but nothing we do today is going to have any lasting Cosmic Significance. And thanks goodness. If you’re anything like me, you don’t remember where you left your keys half the time. I know that, personally, I don’t want such a burden.

And that means we can lighten up! To me, the mark of a good day is laughter. Laughing in delight, because something is funny, because something is absurd – the reason doesn’t matter so much.

Allowing ourselves to laugh – and to laugh at ourselves – is a sign of a healthy mind. I love George Carlin and Louis CK, enjoyed Futurama when I was growing up, and am a fan of the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Taking time to amuse ourselves isn’t productive, but it’s time well spent. And while you often hear me talk ill of our society’s technology addiction, I think mirth-inducing entertainment is a wonderful way to spend 30 minutes.

Pro TipGenetically, you’re almost a rat. Lighten Up.

18. You Don’t Need A Ton Of Money to Lead a Rich Life

As someone who first went into the Faculty of Music at my university and then chose to travel the world, I’ve heard from every sort of detractor imaginable. They often say things like:

  • Do it while you’re young.
  • How will you make a living doing that?
  • How do you afford x?
  • Enjoy it while you can.
  • It won’t last.

These seem both like thinly veiled threats and cries for help. People who wish they could do the same but don’t know how – even though most of the people I’ve heard come up with these objections have way more money than I do.

It’s as if I’m the horrible truth they’ve been fearing: That their pursuit of money is not producing the results they desire, and they know no other alternative. And here I am, doing the things they only wish they could if, in their own minds “ they had the money.

I’m sorry if that smacks of arrogance, but the truth is this: You don’t need a lot of money to have a great life. You can travel, love, learn, grow, achieve, and have more or less the same range of experience available to a “rich” person if you stop looking at prestige as a baseline for fun.

That doesn’t mean we should seek poverty or celebrate it. I think we have a duty to help eradicate poverty around the globe.

But I think it’s equally important that we develop a healthy relationship with money and learn to make it one sphere in our life, instead of the all-encompassing factor that the others depend upon.

Because it’s simply not going to be the case that most of us become insanely rich. That’s an impossible expectation and we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment if that’s the point at which we tell ourselves “okay, now I can be happy.”

Pro Tip: Pursuing money is often a result of not knowing what we really care about. By figuring out what we truly desire, it’s actually rather easy to start creating it in our lives regardless of finances – for over 95% of the thins that people really care about.

So start pursuing those desires, and add money along the way if it’s in line with them. Otherwise, it’s not important.

19. Uninterrupted time is the last bastion of creativity

“If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.”

– Leo Babauta, ZenHabits

There is no way around it – uninterrupted time is the most important single factor in personal achievement.

Creativity, skill acquisition, implementing ideas. They all require uninterrupted blocks of time, usually 1-2 hours, to be done effectively.

Every success I’ve had in life – and there have been many – can basically be attributed to this. There have been other important factors, sure, but this is the single one that is always there – no exceptions.

Modern tech, for all its convenience, is ruinous for this critical principle. We’re conditioned to self interrupt with text messages, email, social media, phone calls – in addition to mindless snacking and other avoidance behaviors.

Even though I’ve trained myself in this area and I’m well aware of the importance of this concept – it’s a constant battle! Attention suckers are all over the place. We need to train our focus and learn to keep returning to what we’re creating – like “speed of recovery” for our attention span.

Pro Tip: If you want to change the results your getting, the most important thing you can do is give yourself big blocks of time in which to figure it out. This is even more important than having a slick new technique.

20. The time value of money

simple-bucket-budgetThe best way for the average individual to think about money is in terms of time – since most of us exchange our time for money. It’s the only conversion we can make to something concrete – something that’s the same for every human being.
This helps us answer the questions “Is that expensive?” and “Can I afford this?

If your car payments every month cost you $243, is that a lot? Hard to say. But if it costs you 18h of work each month, now you can judge whether or not the privilege of car ownership is really “worth it” – relative to the best ways you could spend your time.

And the same can be said for any other expense.

The real key to this is that it allows us to compare apples and oranges – things we buy vs things that are free. Going to the cinema might cost 1.5h of money and 3h of time. Watching the sunset might cost a couple hours of time.

That’s not to say one is superior, only that it lets us see our choices and their consequences more clearly. And I’m all for better decision making skills.

Key: Don’t have enough time or money? Audit your lifestyle and see where you’re spending/investing your time (and money in terms of time). Chances are, there’s a lot you could change, and it’ll be easier to see just what when you understand what you’re actually doing.

21. You can’t do anything, but chances are you can do a lot more than you expected

Frequent CTHC correspondent Sisyphus and I agree: not all things are possible. He can’t roll his cursed boulder to the top of his hill in Hades. Likewise, the list of thigs each of us can’t do is miles long – even if we use a small font size.

This is my biggest beef with many advice websites. They persist in blowing this smoke where the sun don’t shine. But hot air does not make for an effective enema.

This idea continues to persist, so I’ll have to swiftly and decisively disqualify it yet again: Not everyone can marry Angelina Jolie. Not everyone can be the first person on Mars. Or the highest paid actor. Or the most famous singer. If you’re 4ft10, you cannot make the NBA.

But guess what.

It’s okay.

Because we don’t need to be able to do everything. We just need 1 or 2 really good options.

More good news: We can also do a ton more than we think. I traveled our beautiful blue-green orb for a year – and counting. I built a blog that thousands of people read. I ran a marathon. You might not be able to do the same – but you can do an incredible number of things that will be meaningful and fulfilling to you.

The majesty of life is such that you get to figure out what’s best for you

In Short: Don’t look for more options, look to see how you can capitalize most on the skills, interests, and passions you already have. Make them come to life and you’ll feel alive.

22. The World Owes Us Nothing

“I waited over 60 years for the manual of life. When it finally arrived on my doorstep…well, turns out they print these things in Japanese.”

Crap.
Crap.

One of my good friends is one of the hardest working people I know. We rarely see each other anymore, because I’m no longer in Canada.

Aside from that minor detail, when I had been there  this individual was so busy that it was hard to find time to hang out. Even now, with all this business, they’re not meeting their career and financial goals – which saddens me.

But it’s also an important lesson. The world doesn’t owe us anything. Working hard is no guarantee of any particular result. In fact, physicists would say that if no change has occurred, no work has been done. Even if you put in a lot of effort and energy!

So we need a better strategy than hoping our efforts will pay off. Ironically, though we may be putting in a ton of effort, this is a  lazy way of doing things. It’s counting on the external world to recognize and reward us, when we need to find a way to reward ourselves, regardless of what the world thinks or does.

Pro Tip: Working hard is important, but not sufficient to reach certain goals. If you’re doing work you love, which enriches and fulfills you, then you’re going to get the payoff no matter what.

I’ve done it with music, languages, my career, and even this website. It’s worth taking the time to figure out what your truth is and how you can live it.

23. Bottlenecks

Saint Petersburg, Russia, has an efficient and extensive metro system. I, for one, would use it even if I had the option of driving. Trains on the main lines come every 2-3 minutes (occasionally even faster), and even at the far-flung stations I’ve never waited more than 5.

However, there’s a huge bottleneck sapping the system’s efficiency: The escalators. Just recently, I missed 1 train as I entered the station and caught the next a mere 60 seconds later.

When I got off at the other end, I had to wait longer than to get on the escalator.

This isn’t a life changing problem by any means, but it is a funny example of how simple, non-obvious processes can degrade an otherwise wonderfully designed and streamlined process.

Another example is sports stadiums and other large venues, where there always seems to be a lack of women’s bathrooms. Every time you’re at such an event, notice how the line to the ladies room is always much longer than for the mens. Designers design with equal space in mind for each, but don’t account for need. It’s a bottleneck.

This, to me, is further proof that a small number of factors – often ones we don’t even realize exist, play an larger role in our experience than they probably deserve, as exemplified by the 80/20 rule.

In the case of bottlenecks, these aren’t the things that are producing a surprisingly large result, but the unexpected things that are delaying or minimizing what we get done.

Practical Part: In our lives, bottlenecks are often processes that we do more often than necessary which take time away from what’s important. That might be organizing, cleaning, shopping, checking email, or some other process that could be eliminated, batched (doing something less often but in larger amounts – like laundry), or streamlined in some way.

24. Most of the Time – Nobody Really Knows What They’re Doing

Unless you’ve completely given up on life and have become one with the depths of your lazy boy, there is no way to predict your life 5, 10, or 20 years down the road.

We like to pretend we know what were doing and where we’re going. We’re told to get started on career planning early – get into the right schools, get a good degree, then a high paying job, then promotions and up, up, up!

We pretend like we have it all under control – but who hasn’t changed jobs, careers, families, partners, or favorite ice cream flavors at some point?

And we come up with an elaborate story to explain all the behaviors and beliefs that we have out of habit, to give ourselves the illusion of control.

But we don’t need this. It’s baggage. It holds us back. Most of the time, we really have no clue and we run on autopilot – and unlike what the “consciousness” fanatics (see #13 above) would have us believe, that’s actually okay.

When people ask me how I ended up traveling the world, choosing to go to Malaysia, or Russia, getting into marketing, building this blog – I could give some bullshit rationalization. But the truth is – I had no idea. I just followed my instinct and acted on the opportunities as they presented themselves. Many times things didn’t work out. Many more times they did. Like that no-training marathon I did.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to know what you’re doing, or even why you’re doing it. Focus on enjoying what you’re doing, and you’ll find that in the long run things will work out.

25. Maximize what you’ve got! (Minimize what you need)

“I don’t have enough money”

A single phrase with so much power to inspire.

I heard it so many times, I had to create a blog series and a program called “No Money, No Problem” to help people overcome this idea.

In life, it’s tempting to seek more, more, more of things: possessions, time, money, power, prestige.

But without ever mastering what’s already available to us, this is a fruitless exercise.

My favorite example of this is lottery winners, who often end up broke within 5-10 years. These individuals never learned how to use money. They never figured out how to have a healthy, constructive relationship with it. Getting “more” just exemplified their lack of skill in this area.

And even though we think it would never happen to us, we’re deluding ourselves. The numbers don’t lie. We’re all human and are subject to the same psychological biases.

If we don’t learn how to use what we have, getting “more” just isn’t going to help.

Pro Tip: Instead of feeling down because you don’t have something, find ways to celebrate what you have – and to get the most you have out of those things. Then, getting more will enrich and empower us, instead of perpetuating a cycle of futility.

26. Love & Gratitude – My Life is Amazing

calvinThere are at least 100 things you’re not experiencing right now. Research teams in Switzerland are running experiments and they believe there might be as many as 357 things you’re missing out on at any given moment.

We will always be missing out on something. I came to Russia instead of going to Turkey or Morocco. Because of that choice, I’m also going to be studying Russian for a year in Saint Petersburg instead of continuing to country hop.

In other words, my life sucks. Wah! There’s so much I’m missing out on.

You have got to be kidding me.

I’m so incredibly grateful for being able to wake up every morning, happy, healthy, and do many things that I love. I don’t care that there are other good things out there that I’m missing out on. What a waste of energy.

There’s so much right in front of us all the time that’s mind blowing, amazing, spectacular, if we only care to look.

It’s been an amazing 26 years thus far, and I’m so excited to be starting #27.

Whatever is going on in your life, whatever you’re struggling with, take heart! Your life might not change from reading a blog post, but you can start to take action on the ideas you have right now. There’s a ton to be grateful for. There’s a ton to explore. And there’s a ton of love to give.

29 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

how to be happy
How To Be Happy

We all want to know how to be happy: To live a good life, feel fulfilled, be engaged, create things, and connect deeply with others.

And often, our search for increased happiness means we’re trying to add more and more wonderful things to our lives, when really what we need is to let go of the things that are preventing us from experiencing deep satisfaction in the first place.

These are things that cause suffering, pain, stress, hurt, anxiety, shame, and depression by holding on.

Inspired by Luminita Saviuc’s famous article from 2011 , I’ve come up with an updated list of things to give up in order to be happy:

29. Give Up: Perfectionism

If there was ever a slow acting venom to sap the vigor of the human spirit, we could call it by the name: perfectionism.

Perfectionism paralyses us, making us unwilling to act for the fear of falling short of out ideals. And then it punishes us when we invariably do, for “perfect” is an impossible standard to live up to.

It’s one thing to always keep our head up, pointed towards our lofty goals – quite another if we’re constantly pushed back into the mud for doing so.

Giving up perfectionism and embracing continual growth is what allows us to enrich our lives, to have new experiences and develop new skills fluidly – without resistance.

How: Embrace the “beginner’s mindset.” Learn to love the acts of experimenting that are the basis of all learning, and let the results take care of themselves.

28. Give Up: Serial Seriousness

Ever have that coworker (or boss) that never smiled, spent all their time working, and frowned on fun? Ever be that person in the name of more “productivity” or “success”?

Being too serious drains our energy, as well as the energy of those around us. It turns a fresh, exciting world into monotony, monochrome, and monotone.

Lightening up doesn’t mean being silly or joking all the time, it means allowing ourselves to enjoy life along the way – even when it’s serious grown up stuff.

Chances are, our lives contain a significant amount of serious-sounding business to take care of. If our commute, our work, chores, and our other obligations can be approached with a light heart and a smile, we’ve just radically improved the quality of our lives.

How: Enjoy what you do! Create your own fun. A limerick or two, will show you how it’s done!

There once was a God named Osiris
Who in terms of sex, wasn’t the wisest
For pregnant was Isis
The cause of his crisis?
A condom made out of papyrus.
-Andrew Walton, 2011

27. Give Up: Self-Deprecating Self-Talk

No, you’re not crazy – the voices in your head really are a crucial part of how good you feel about your life. From PsychologyToday:

“…destructive type of self-talk causes you to question yourself so constantly that you can soon become paralyzed with doubt and uncertainty”

Negative self talk such as “God, I’m such an idiot”, “I’ll never figure this out,” and “I don’t deserve that,” has the power to ruin our self confidence and self esteem, especially if we get caught in a downward spiral.

Stopping this cycle will be like having an elephant lifted off our chest. We’ll be able to think and move and feel without this constant pressure weighing us down.

How: Mothers know best, if we don’t have anything nice to say, we best not say anything. Some people would suggest replacing a negative thought with a positive one. If you can do this, by all means.But sometimes if we’re feeling badly about ourselves, saying a positive phrase we don’t believe only makes us feel worse. In these cases, simply observing ourselves and the world with no comment is the way to go.

26. Give Up: The Need To Impress Others

I once heard it said that, in life, 1/3 of the people you meet will really like you, 1/3 won’t, and 1/3 won’t care either way.

popular opinion of you
Your Rankings in the Polls

This may not be literally true, but it does make a good point: No matter what we do, some people will like us, some won’t and some will be indifferent.

We’re often so concerned with what other people think that we give up what we want in order to try to squeeze everyone into the “like me” category.

That’s like trying to take the elephant we just got off our chest (see #27 above) and squeeze it into the elevator. It doesn’t fit. It’s a waste of energy.

The only sensible course of action is to live our truth and embrace those who would celebrate who we really are.

How: Identify 3 areas in your life where you haven’t been living honestly, with integrity to your core values. Learn to say “no”, and start acting on those true desires.

25. Give Up: Your Obsession With Possession

Accumulating as much stuff as we can possibly fit in our living space may be one of the most popular pastimes of modern humans, but it’s a poor recipe for happiness.

As Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational explains, buying things doesn’t create lasting happiness. We get comfortable and familiar with what we have, then – like our friendly neighborhood crack addict – have to go out to get another hit in order to keep the jollies flowing.

Except that the joy we get from acquiring new stuff also diminishes as we acquire more, just look at this interesting study conducted by MS Paint about the correlation between the number of pirate hats bought and total happiness:

pirate hats vs happiness

As we can clearly see, the first couple hats bring us great happiness, but after that it’s harder and harder to get the joy we did from those initial hats.

This is what fuels mindless consumption, the fact that in order to get the same amount of joy we did initially, we need an ever increasing amount of “stuff”. It’s time to break the cycle.

How: Money can buy happiness. As Dan points out in his book – experiences do lead to lasting fulfillment. Vacations, classes, excursions with friends – these are the things that enrich our lives.

24. Give Up: Labels

Labels are a great way to find out what ingredients are in our food – but they’re a lousy way to think about people.

The problem with labeling ourselves and labeling others is that these labels attribute value to the group in question.

  • Oh, she’s a democrat, she can’t possibly be worth getting to know.
  • Vegan? What is he, some sort of hippie?
  • Capitalist? Must hate the environment.
  • Feminist?
  • Transsexual?
  • Catholic?
  • Canadian?
  • CrossFit?

All of this mode of thinking pulls people apart. People with different labels than our own aren’t as good as us in some way, and don’t belong in our exclusive, correct group – the one group of people smart enough to get it right. Or not.

To create widespread happiness we need to bring people together, and that means seeing all people as just people, without all the qualifiers attached

How: Start by un-labeling yourself. Stop thinking of yourself in terms of your political or religious affiliations, nationality, dietary preferences, or even sexual preferences. When you start to see yourself as just a person, it will be easy to see others in the same light.

23. Give Up: Blame

Blaming others for our problems often seems justified, but it can never move us towards happiness, because it gives all our power to the external world.

Not all depressed people blame the world for their problems, but almost all the people who blame the world for their problems are depressed.

By blaming, what we’re really saying is “I have no power to determine my own happiness, you have all of it, so you’d better make me happy.”

Looking at blame in this light, we can see that it’s actually quite selfish, as well as self-defeating. Taking responsibility for our lives is one of the fundamental principles of leading a happy life, even when it seems like nothing is our fault.

How: No matter what is going on, take responsibility for taking the best action you can and creating your own happiness. After all, nobody cares about it as much as you do.

22. Give Up The Idea: You’re Going To Be Rich

Most people will never be extravagantly wealthy. And thankfully, most people don’t need to be.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re one of the wealthiest people in the history of humanity – even if you’re not pulling in the billions (link: world wealth distribution).

Finding peace with your financial situation and getting the most out of what you have makes more sense than working yourself to death in pursuit of money.

After all, one of the top regrets of dying people is that they worked too hard and didn’t focus on what was truly important until it was too late.

How: Decrease your dependence on money to create happiness. Find simple ways to enjoy your life. Relax. Spend time with people. Learn. Read fiction. There are so many great options if we let ourselves see and pursue them.

21. Give Up: Excuses

Excuses are a fancy way of saying, “someone else had better come solve my problems.” Maybe the dog really ate our homework, maybe our parents didn’t give us enough love and affection, maybe we had some sort of traumatic experience that affects our ability to trust.

There is always a reason to not reach our goals and fulfill our desires if we look for it. And some people have really good reasons. But the simple truth is that holding on to these justifications prevents us from making progress – and that we’re the only ones who can make that progress.

We have to ditch the excuses, no matter how comforting they may be, and dig down deep to connect with what really drives us, and go for it.

How: Instead of thinking thoughts like “I can’t because”, or “I didn’t because”, think about what you want and how to get it. Then take the next step, get feedback, and repeat. It’s a simple and timeless formula for success.

20. Give Up: The Need To Control Others

We often find ourselves disapproving with the way the people around us behave. Their habits grind us down. Maybe they’re noisy, leave the TV on when they’ve left the room, don’t clean up after themselves, or spend their money in strange and irresponsible ways (by our thinking).

We wish we could get them to see the world our way and act the way we would. We may even feel disrespected or hurt by their behavior. What we want is control.

control
“Why won’t he shut up about work already!”

But trying to control people is the best-known way to destroy our relationships, and sadly, this tendency affects those closest to us most. Think of parents with rebellious teens or a strained marriage.

Instead of seeing more control over others, self control is what we really need. That, and acceptance of the things that make the people close to us unique and interesting.

How: When you see a friend, coworker, or your partner doing something you disapprove of, give them the space to express themselves. They’re not doing it to hurt you or annoy you.Observe the wonder of how they see and interact with the world – and how you’re okay in spite of what they’re doing.

19.Give Up: Living In The Past

There seem to be 2 types of “pasts” – the golden years we wish would return, and the horrible traumas that have left us scarred.

Researchers have found a number of reasons we get stuck in the past that have nothing to do with problem solving for future events, but are replays of our hurts and failings. These can become patterns of thought that are difficult to escape, increasing the hurt, loss, or shame we feel.

Being stuck in the past prevents us from engaging in the present and building the future. The stories we tell about why things are the way they are have a lot of sentimental value, but if we want to write a new ending, then we have to stop reading through the old chapters.

How: Acknowledge the past, take moments to smile at it, to look at old photos, to reflect on old experiences. All of that is fine. But then come back, focus on your current desires, and the step you plan on taking next in order to reach them. Where you focus your mind is the key to escaping the past and welcoming the present.

18. Give Up: Self Repression

The standard model for losing weight, improving our personal finances, and overcoming other personal challenges is “repress for success.” Don’t eat that lobster. Don’t buy that latte. Don’t watch that episode of Dancing With The Stars!

All of this leads to a guilt-ridden conscience when we inevitably do some of these activities we’ve decided are in the “bad” pile, even though we desire them.

It’s one thing to cater to every fleeting emotion that flows through us, and it’s actually the exact same thing to repress them all: Misery, unhappiness, stress,dysfunction.

There is a middle ground between self repression and reckless indulgence. And it starts with the recognition that are desires aren’t bad and wrong.

chocolate covered happiness
Please insert cake to continue
How: When we allow ourselves to indulge our desires with presence of mind and without all the guilt and shame we normally attach to them, they are unlikely to become wild, out of control, creatures that dominate our minds.My favorite technique for this is called “Excess In Moderation.”

17. Give Up: Expectations

Having expectations is an insidious sort of mind virus that is a lose-lose proposition for our brains.

Either our expectations aren’t met, in which case we feel upset. Or they are met, in which case we feel relief. Occasionally, we receive a tiny amount of positive feedback when our expectations are exceeded, but this is rare – and is quite possibly the reason we continue to set high expectations only to be let down.

What we really want is to have no expectations and high aspirations, or “short term pessimism and long term optimism”.

We aim for our big targets, but don’t expect anything that isn’t here, now. I recently aced some job interviews, but I don’t consider myself a salaried employee until the money is in the bank.

How: While it’s impossible not to have expectations, it is possible not to listen to them too closely. The technique is simple, expect things to stay exactly as they are right now while focusing on your goal.Persistence tends to pay off, and in the meantime, you won’t be subject to a string of demoralizing disappointments.

16. Give Up: Procrastination

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” ― Pablo Picasso

Procrastination has got to be one of the most-cited reasons for people not achieving their goals. We could do it, but we just keep putting things off. It’s actually rather amazing. We can want something, know how to do it (or find out), have the means to do it, and have the time to do it – yet still not do it! Why does this happen?

Most of the things we really care about require us to do something unpleasant or undesirable. If that wasn’t the case, everyone would be a six-pack sporting billionaire with a necklace of Olympic gold medals – or a rough equivalent.

Procrastinating has more to do with our discomfort with uncertainty, fear of failure, desire for perfection, and other mental hurdles – rather than a major force of its own. Conquer those, and say goodbye to procrastination.

15. Give Up: The Need to Be Right

One of the reasons I like writing this blog is I get to exercise my intellectual prowess without censorship or argument. However, leading all aspects of my life in the same way I write a blog post would be ruinous for my relationships.

When we value being right – or rather, feeling like we’ve won an intellectual debate – over our relationships with others, those relationships erode.

It’s understandable why this is the case. Being wrong threatens our identity when we associate too closely with the ideas and opinions we express.

But our ideas are independent of us. In fact, they’re not our ideas at all. The process by which humanity increases its knowledge is a continuous and collective process.

Letting go of the need to be/feel right will allow us to focus more on what’s truly important, our relationships and our ability to come together to find solutions to the challenges that face us.

How: Learn to listen more and talk less. You already know your opinion, and the only way you’re going to learn anything new is by letting someone else share theirs. By valuing the other person and your own growth more than the jolt of pleasure from dominating someone with your caustic wit, you’ll both come away happier.

14. Give Up: Attachment

Attachment is the idea that something is ours to possess. It can be an object such as a book, a person, or an abstract concept such as an idea.

The things we’re attached to create a fear of loss. If we’re attached to our partner, we fear losing them. If we’re attached to our idea that the Paleo diet is the right way to eat, then we fear being proven wrong.

Giving up attachment means realizing that, even if these things are elements in our lives, they aren’t ours to own and keep. This can be particularly hard with our romantic partners – but it’s no less true.

I love my girlfriend, but I certainly don’t own her. Detaching doesn’t mean we can’t love something, it just means we’re no longer irrevocably bound to it, and we don’t have to fear it’s loss.

For instance, I don’t want to lose Katia, someone whom I love, but I don’t fear it either. That’s the freedom giving up attachment offers.

How: Letting go of attachment mostly has to do with recognizing that we don’t own things in the first place. We can also minimize, and eliminate the physical objects in our life that we don’t regularly use as effective practice.

13. Give Up: The Illusions of Safety, Comfort And Security

We like to make our surroundings as safe and cozy as we can, and then hold on to this with all our might. Change is scary and threatening. Whatever else happens, we must not rock the boat!

But this sort of safety and security is, for the most part, an illusion. There are far too many things in this world outside of our control to pretend like nothing can happen that will knock us from our ivory towers.

International politics (war), the looming energy and environmental crises, natural disasters, financial sector implosions – all have the power to shake what we believe to be unshakable.

Real security is knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll figure out what to do.

Creativity, resourcefulness, determination, friendship – these are the things that are real security.

Personally, I don’t buy in to any of the doom and gloom predictions the media love to scare us with. But I know that I’m also not above “losing it all.”

How: Don’t try to hold on too hard. The world is dynamic. Things come and go from our lives. The things we have inside are more valuable than the material stuff we hold dear anyway.

12. Give Up: Perpetual Connection

Being constantly hooked in to the electro-social web of the 21st century has a lot of allure, but it’s not all wine and roses*.  Here’s a quick overview of the symptoms of excessive consumption of the social web – our cellphones, tablets, and computers that keep us connected 24/7 to one another – that, ironically, I’ve collected from around the web:

  • Constant, self-interrupting (difficulty focusing)
  • Other people control our time
  • Disconnection causes psychological hardship
  • Loss of hobbies
  • Boredom
  • Inability to entertain oneself
  • Loneliness (ironic, right?)
  • Depression (people seeing others’ happy FB updates wonder why their lives aren’t as cool)
  • Difficulty communicating in real life situations

We are not adapted to this sort of lifestyle and need time to unplug.

For me, one of the best things about traveling the world for a year was that it drastically cut down on my ability to access the network, and I experienced so much life out in the world.

How: Take some time every day to disconnect, even if it’s just for an hour. That means no emails, phone calls, texts, apps, or any other digital media. Go watch a sunset or cook a nice meal.Also, I’d challenge you to completely unplug for one day a week, like Sunday. It will be challenging at first, and you’ll probably experience addiction-style withdrawal symptoms. This should be a sign you’re doing the right thing.

11. Give Up: Complaining

Complaining is a relationship killer. It’s one of the cardinal sins of communication, as exemplified in How to Win friends And Influence People – “never criticize, condemn, or complain.”

everything's amazing and nobody's happy

Work was tough. The commute was long. The weather was bad. We need more money. Okay? I get it. So does everyone else. We all experiences challenges and rough patches.

Complaining has not helped a single time. If we were to replace complaints with solution-oriented actions, our results would be a lot different.

How: Complaining isolates us from others. It’s a selfish and dead end act. If we want help – which is the flawed idea behind most complaints, then the best way to get it is to say “here’s what I’m trying to do, and here’s how I’m trying to do it. How do you think I could do this better?

10. Give Up: Insecurity

We spend too much time worrying about what others will think of us, and these worries can spiral out of control and become debilitating insecurities about our self worth.

As we discussed earlier, no matter what we do there are going to be those who like us, those who dislike us, and those who don’t have any opinion. It’s a fruitless exercise to try to make it otherwise.

Insecurity stems from the time we lived in small tribes, and being ousted was as good as a death sentence – small wonder public speaking is cited as being a bigger fear than death! They are actually equivalent – only public speaking is a much more concrete and visceral experience.

By getting rid of our insecurities, we free up our energy to pursue the things we truly care about with relentless vigor.

How: It’s a bit of a reinforcing cycle, but by doing what you truly want with absolute integrity will attract the kind of people who do accept you and repel those you don’t care about getting acceptance from. It starts by taking small steps.Research has shown that acting on our goals is one of the best ways to improve our self esteem and self confidence.

9. Give Up: Depending On Others For Happiness

While it is untrue that happiness is 100% in our own hands – the external world does play a role, to be completely dependent on others for our happiness is basically guaranteeing our unhappiness.

Why? Because other people aren’t looking out for your best interests – even the well meaning ones. Only you have the power to do that.

You know your own mind, your own values, your own passions. And while other people are an important part of expressing these things in the world, they don’t control them.

Waiting for others to come and set things right will have us counting the days, months, and years as life passes us by, as we wait at an abandoned bus stop wondering what the heck is going on. You determine your direction. You take action.  You create your happiness.

Nobody else can care about it as much as you can.

How: It starts with responsibility – taking responsibility for our own happiness. And we haven’t really done that until we take action. Eliminate the extraneous and the negative from our environments, accentuate and elaborate on the positive. And continually build and create until we’re where we want to be.

8. Give Up: the Need to Know

Humans are amazing story tellers. One of the reasons we’re so good at it is that our minds don’t cope very well with uncertainty. We tell stories to give meaning to the things we don’t understand. And this takes place with fairly mundane, routine events.

For instance,  think of all the times you’ve been puttering around the house and someone (your partner, a parent, a child) asks, “why did you do that?” Maybe you dropped a cup, picked your nose, rearranged some flowers, or laughed hysterically – the particular doesn’t matter.

In any case, we often don’t know why we do the things we do. Most of our actions are automatic, a combination of our habits, current mental state, and environment. So we rationalize, telling a story that seems to make sense. “Oh, well the flowers were leaning to the left and I wanted to make sure they got more sunlight” or some such nonsense.

Normally, this is harmless, but not always. When we form strong opinions about things we haven’t taken the time to research and understand, we’re putting ourselves in a position to hurt ourselves and others.

We feel the need to have opinions about everything, so when we’re queried we come up with answers. We need to stop doing this.

It’s okay to not know. In fact, it’s liberating to stop telling these stories – because the danger is we end up believing them!

How: When someone asks a question, don’t just respond. Even if it’s something like, “Why did you put the apple juice on the counter,” give yourself a moment to reflect and determine whether you had a reason or not.Then, don’t make a liar out of yourself. If people are going to wonder if you’re being strange or evasive by not answering concretely, explain the concept to them. Your integrity is worth it.

7. Give Up: Over-Analyzing

It is natural to want to know how things are going to go before we act, but obsessive analysis of every possible scenario ends up being a waste of time.

There are simply too many variables to consider to be able to map our way through a complex task or scenario, such as a job interview or asking someone for a date.

We are much better off preparing our best and then going for it, instead of waiting for more information to come and clarify the unknowns. Because we’ll find that, as soon as the pressure is on and we have to perform, all the planning and information gathering goes out the window and instinct takes over.

We don’t even have access to all the information we were trying to analyze, organize and remember.

How: Practice makes perfect and eventually influences how we perform, so rehearsing the core of our “performance” is sensible. However, beyond that, it becomes impossible to predict and plan for all the minutia. And that’s okay.Generally, if we get the big things down, we will have the mental reserves to adjust to the particulars of a scenario. I’ve found this to be the case with numerous job interviews, and it applies equally to other areas of our lives.

6. Give Up: Waiting for the Right Moment

Waiting for the stars to align before taking action is a sure way to set the world record for doing nothing.

If that’s not your goal, then you best stop waiting for the right moment, and start making this moment right. There will always be a reason to delay action if that’s what we’re looking for.

Equally, there will also be a reason to act now – if we connect honestly with our desires, interests, and passions.

If you want something, then the time to start is now.

Otherwise, throw out the idea and find something you’re willing to work towards.

How: Identify the best course of action you can take given the circumstances and take decisive action.

5. Give Up: Passing Judgment

We are often quick to criticize the behavior of others, the quality of their actions, as well as the quality of our own.

But with other people, we don’t know what’s going on in their lives. We don’t understand their struggles, their worries, their fears. All we see is the external expression of their internal state, and it’s not always a fair representation of who that person is.

And to be honest, even if it was, passing judgment isn’t likely the way to produce happiness in their lives or ours. For judgment is a divisive action – where as understanding is a cohesive one.

By understanding people as our default goal and position, and by not marginalizing them from the outset through judgment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to learn something about another person’s experience and help them with our suffering.

As for ourselves, we often judge ourselves harshly against standards that we don’t fully understand. We don’t all have the same opportunities or the same level of interest as others, so to call ourselves lazy, stupid, or unmotivated is generally inaccurate – and it’s always counterproductive.

Self understanding is likewise what we need. Putting ourselves down isn’t the way to reach our goals.

How: By being mindful of our tendency to pass judgment quickly, we can take a step back and search for deeper understanding. It’s about bringing the unconscious reflex into our conscious view so we can change our habits.

4. Give Up: The Idea of a Perfect Partner

Perfectionism applied to romance is one of the saddest recipes for disaster in the Cookbook of Life.

cookbook of happiness
Chapter 3: Self Esteem Salads

No partner is ever going to meet some imagined ideal of perfection.

Nobody thinks and acts exactly the same way we do, and thank goodness, because otherwise we’d be dating ourselves. So our partners are going to challenge us to grow; to learn to accept them as they are; to love every part of them, including the parts that sometimes make us hang our jaws in exasperation.

It is our responsibility to see the “imperfections” (though you should stop using such a word!) as opportunities to learn about how another person sees and interacts with the world.

How: Celebrate everything about your partner, especially the things that would otherwise drive you crazy. Learn to enjoy the quirks, the unexpected behaviors etc. Celebrate the fact that you get to share all of this with them.That’s so freakin’ cool when you think about it…

3. Give Up: Certainty

Certainty is the twin sibling of perfectionism. The two work hand in hand to paralyze us and turn the saccharine ambrosia of our passions into hardened, crystallize, immobile amber.

As we grow up and get punished for our mistakes and misdeeds, we lose our taste for the unknown, for adventure. We end up craving the comfort of the known and the certain.

But this is like a self imposed handicap that prevents us from getting off our butts and achieving all the magnificent goals we have. We write bucket lists and dream big dreams, but don’t move, because that would require tasting the bitter fruit of uncertainty.

Well it’s time to take that bite and give up certainty for something better: unlocking our full potential as human beings.

How: Make time to learn a new skill or hobby. Languages, chess, musical instruments, painting, dance, knitting, wood carving and other art forms are great for this. It forces us to confront uncertainty and to become comfortable at exploring the unknown again.

2. Give Up: Looking Down On What You Have

Maybe you feel like what you have isn’t enough or isn’t good enough, but looking down at the things we have while salivating over the wonders withheld from us is not the path to lasting happiness.

If we cultivate the habit of being dissatisfied with what we have, then it is inevitable that – should we eventually acquire the things that made our taste buds tingle, we will look down on them too, looking for a fancier and more prestigious next target.

There is no end in sight, and no satisfaction to be had. For we can always have more.

The only way to avoid this is by appreciating the things we have. For when we think “this is good, this is enough,” we free ourselves from the curse of insatiability. This doesn’t mean we can’t have more, but it means that getting more is no longer a prerequisite to being fulfilled.

How: I think minimizing to only the things we use regularly is a great way to appreciate what we have. I love my knife, because I notice it every time I use it. It’s not lost amongst 100s of other objects. It’s much easier to appreciate individual items when they’re not diluted by piles and piles of competitors for our attention. I once heard it said that “maybe we only have as much as we can love,” and I think there’s some truth to that. Less truly is more, because we can appreciate it better.

1. Give Up: Your Need to be Happy

Wait. What? The number one thing to give up in order to be happier  to give up my need to be happy?

Exactly.

If happiness is what we’re demanding of ourselves, then we’re not going to be in tune with how we truly feel. This will create a lot of tension and stress when we realize we’re not happy.

Instead of judging ourselves as “failing” at happiness, we can give ourselves the right to feel anything and everything – the whole cornucopia of emotion human experience has to offer.

How: When you notice you’re not happy – don’t rush to judgment or think, “I’ve gotta do something to feel happy again.” Calmly observe how you feel. You don’t need to rationalize it, judge it, or try to “fix” it. It’ll pass soon enough.

It is by allowing ourselves to feel sad, upset, even angry or jealous that we empower ourselves to release these emotions and return to happiness.

Even if it means we’re not happy in that moment, being able to feel difficult emotions is a part of leading a happy life.

 



Give yourself a pat on the back. If you read all the way through – then that’s nearly 6,000 words of wisdom you can now apply to your life in order to increase your happiness.

Now it’s your turn. What do you need to give up in order to be happier? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Unstuck – How to Stop Feeling Stuck in Life

Ever feel like you’re putting in more and more effort, only to find yourself feeling stuck in a rut and wondering why nothing is working?

Kind of like when your Hummer has sunk into some mud, and by applying more gas the wheel just spins and digs a deeper hole. Mother Nature’s revenge perhaps?

I know that I tend to feel stuck with the same types of problems over and over, and this occurrence actually seems to be the norm in people’s lives. People trying to lose weight jump from diet to diet with no discernible, long term progress. Perpetual singles update their Plenty of Fish profiles and send out some new messages while YouTubeing pickup lines. And people who dream of riches buy my fake info product: Easy Internet Billions.

All the while, the Earth keeps turning, the sun keeps burning, the seasons change, and we don’t.

Case Study: SomeGal Stays Stuck

I recently received an email from a SomeGal, who is currently suffering through the sort of repetitive strain injury I endured for 8 years.

She asked me how I fixed the problem and if I would be willing to share.

Well of course! Good grief – I’m probably one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic by virtue of the fact I tried every combination of treatments I could think of.

So I suggested that SomeGal add me on Skype so I could walk her through my entire system.

Aaaand. Nothing.

Which makes me glad I didn’t spend 2 hours writing the whole thing up in an email, even though I know exactly how freakin’ frustrating and demoralizing such an affliction can be and how important it is to get support. I would have felt horrible doing all that work only to have SomeGal not show up.
The interesting question is – why didn’t she? Uncertainty

I think the main reason we stay stuck is that we aren’t able to handle the amount of uncertainty required to get unstuck.

Of course, when we have solutions to our challenges present themselves, we can’t know for certain things will work out. But it’s time to get over that. Certainty is the idiot half-brother of perfectionism and is not for the mentally & emotionally mature individual. It’s a horrible rubber crutch and an excuse to do nothing.

Maybe it won’t work!

Well maybe a nuclear apocalypse will start tomorrow and wipe us all off the face of the planet – but I’m not wasting my emotional energy worrying about it. If we don’t control it, we have no need to worry over it.

As someone who has been there, played with the excuses, experienced the lows, felt sorry for myself, blamed the world, pointed the finger, and fell off the camel – I can say with certainty that most of us either know the answer to our burning questions or know how to find it, but simply aren’t willing to do what it takes.

This is one of the major psychological hurdles every one of us has to learn to manage: the fact that it’s easier to stay in the discomfort we know than to venture forth in search of the comfort that’s uncertain.

It’s like sleeping on an ant hill every night because there just might be snakes in the grass.

The Game of (Real) Life

When we are young children, uncertainty doesn’t phase us. We’re all curious little scientists experimenting with the world, seeing what will happen when we interact with it. “That dirt looks tasty, I wonder what it tastes like. Hmmm, no. What about if I add water. I like the texture, but the flavor leaves something to be desired. Maybe salt. Or sugar. Or worms. Yeah! Worms...” and a future Michelin Star chef is born.

But as we grow up and get punished for our mistakes – by elders or in school – our curiosity becomes associated with negative emotions. Exploring becomes dangerous, and what was once an insatiable appetite for uncertainty becomes an allergy that causes us to swell up, shake, and sweat uncontrollably.

But the good news is we can relearn to love it.

And the best way I’ve found to do that is through…drumroll…learning!

Something completely new that we’re a beginner at. Chess, a language, cooking, dancing, painting, guitar, or some other complex task.

Why? Because in order to succeed at any of these we have to learn to enjoy them while being objectively unskilled and not really knowing how to improve.

There’s actually a lot of literature on this, how people learn better when they’re happy. By going to that place every day, where we’re a beginner, and learning to love the process of trying and failing, experimenting, doing and simply seeing what the heck happens as a result – that is how we can rekindle our love for the uncertain.

In my experience, it’s much more effective doing this in the context of a concrete task than to do strictly mental/mindset work, which only adds another layer of uncertainty and doesn’t provide any concrete feedback.

So while I’m a fan of a mental attitude somewhere of the realm of “it’s easy” slash “it doesn’t matter” slash “it’s all good,” we’ve gotta take these key phrases into the [jungle] gym and work them out.

Seriously, if you want to do this quickly – go buy some finger paints and start creating. It will frustrate you until you let go of your need to be perfect, and then you’ll be free.

If you haven’t done any sort of artwork before, your inability to produce what your mind can conceive will force you to confront the uncertainty of your efforts, and that’s the way to overcome it.

Much better than going out into the lions den and buying a bunch of hedge funds.

Unstuck

The only way to get unstuck and change a pattern of failure is to become comfortable trying something new. Probably something we know we could do, but simply haven’t.

Brian Tracy has a famous quote: “The number one trait of successful people is…”

He continually changes what comes next, but one of my suggestions is: “…trying many ideas quickly and receiving feedback.”

We’ve talked about being decisive and recovering quickly from setbacks before, and this is in the same toolbox. Becoming not just comfortable, but inviting uncertainty into our lives, by acting again and again and seeing what the world does – that is how we solve our challenges and reach our goals. That’s what makes procrastination disappear.

Instead of trying to create certainty by holding on to everything we know harder and harder, we’ve got to liberate ourselves by going the opposite way – embracing the freedom of not knowing and not needing to, doing our best – repeatedly, and welcoming what comes.

So to all the SomeGals and SomeGuys who aren’t doing what needs to be done to reach their goals – start by getting comfortable with a bit of uncertainty in your lives.

And if my SomeGal is reading this, you still have a chance to write the ending to your story. Maybe I’ll say mean things on Skype. Maybe I’ll try to sell you timeshares or a lifetime subscription plan to Easy Internet Billions. Or maybe I’ll help you solve your problem.

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but there’s one way to be sure you find out.

Even If You’re Broke: Income Limit Revisited

After writing my article about setting an Income Limit as a part of developing a healthy relationship with money and taking to a lot of readers who were facing financial difficulties, I realized that some big questions had been left unanswered:

What if we’re broke? Or in massive debt? Or are experiencing some other variety of great financial distress? How the heck is setting an income limit going to help me.

All of these are fair. After all, if our bank account is empty, we have no job, and our prospects of getting one don’t look so good, the though of setting an income limit seems pretty silly.

But I think it all depends on what money problem we’re focusing on.

2 Types of Money Troubles

If you’re in a financially critical situation and you’re worried about where your next meal is coming from, your top priority is almost certainly to get your hands on some money – fast.

From such a situation, it’s incredibly challenging to stop for a moment, zoom out, and look at the 2 financial challenges we’re actually battling: The concrete one, having money for food, rent, and other survival-level needs – and the psychological one, or what not having some certain amount of money means to us.

I would argue that, in most situations, the psychological trauma of feeling like a failure, feeling trapped, helpless, like a loser, etcetera is more damaging than even the apparent survival threats. I base that on that fact that out of all the unemployment stories I’ve read, not one of them mentions suicidal depression as a result of being stuck out in the cold.

It might not be glamorous, but there is almost always a way to meet our survival needs – at least if we’re living in a city.

The psychological aspect is the kicker. The evidence is clear.

If the unemployment stories don’t move you, then maybe the science will: Numerous studies have shown that people would rather make more money than their peers than earn less than them, even if in the 2nd case they earn more in absolute terms.

To clarify: Our friend SomeGuy would rather earn $30,000 if all his peers were paid $20,000 than earn $60,000 if all his peers were earning $75,000. Twice as much is less desirable when we’re getting less than the rest.

Understandable, from an evolutionary point of view, unhealthy from a modern psychological one.

My point is simple – our attitude towards money is, for the majority of the developed world, more important than the money itself.

So how can the income limit help – even if we have nothing?

The income limit is actually just a tool – it’s not the goal. It’s a tool designed to get us to think in concrete terms about how much we want/need to be happy. It’s about removing that target always drifting away from us saying, “but you could be earning even more…and more…AND MORE.”

Because if we don’t know what’s enough, we’ll never be satisfied. We’ll always feel like we don’t have enough. And that goes for whether we have $0 or $1 million –  at least when it comes to the psychological aspect of money.

If you’re at or close to zero, it can also be empowering. If we’re able to figure out exactly what it is we’re shooting for – not “$10,000/month so I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want,” but “earn $400/month towards my goal of studying French in Paris for 2 years” – or whatever it is.

Then every step will feel like progress, instead of that “well, I still don’t have enough so I’m still a failure.”

The reality is, that if you’re in a difficult financial situation, getting out of it will not be fast well over 99% of the time. That’s the unpopular reality. We’ve got to give ourselves concrete milestones to work towards – that’s how we’re able to keep hope alive, not succumb to despair, and keep striving to change our situation.

So no, the income limit won’t put food on your table, you’ll need a different technique for that. But if you spend some time to really define what it is you’re after, then you can start working methodically towards getting it.

When I finally got my voice back after 2.5 years of not talking and my body was in good enough shape to do amazing things like hold a knife and fork, I was finally able to make good on my goal of traveling the world. It took a long time. It was painful. But having that concrete goal – and others – helped me do the things I needed to in order to recover.

And I’ll be honest – the “how” is rarely clear or obvious. It’s rarely something we can find in an advice book – despite the case study of the gal who goes from the street to the penthouse in 6 months because she pulled off some business miracle. Real life, for most of us, doesn’t work like that and we can’t count on the big, windfall payday.

What we can do, is count on ourselves – if we make the effort to put ourselves in a position to succeed. That means working on our relationship with money – even if we don’t have any right now. The income limit is my favorite technique for this, but ultimately it’s more important that you do it than what technique you use.

What’s more, you’ll find that other people are much more willing to lend a hand when you’re taking action towards a tangible goal. And that can eliminate a decent amount of that isolated feeling that often comes with financial strife. But it has to be a serious, doable, and very tangible, and you’ve gotta display the fact that you’re getting it done anyway.

As you probably know, I’m not at all a fan of the idea that “we can do anything we put our minds to.” The next line is too often, “if you take my $97/month money making course,” or some such garbage. But everyone can do this. And if you’re really hurting, it’s more important than ever that you do so.

Best of luck! And feel free to hit me on my contact form if there’s anything you’d like to discuss further.

How I Did It: 1 Year of World Travel (On $300 A Month)

Perhaps it’s fitting, but as I’m wrapping my first year of permanent/indefinite travel, what appears in my Inbox but an email from a fellow musician – music teacher make that – who also suffered a career ending (or postponing) injury.

He says:

“Now I want to sell my stuff and travel the world. How do you do it? How do you pay for food and places to stay?”

How indeed.

Time to brush off that dusty old tome, gather around the campfire (I’m sure you have an app for that), and get ready for more Tales From Planet Earth.

It all started on a dark and stormy night. Our hero (your truly), had just completed his quest to remove the curse of the missing voice, a forced vow of silence that had lasted 2.5 years.

Like the other great figures from history – Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, Batman, Caesar, Harry Potter – this hero faced the same question all his brethren had faced in their own time:

Now what?

Seriously, after all the dragons have been slain (how sad), princesses have been saved (how socially-regressive), and battles have been won (how pointlessly macho), most heros end up working on their beer belly in front of the tube*. *Make that YouTube.

But not this hero. This hero was going to travel the world.

So he did.

Setting Up

Now, I’ve given you the sarcastic version of a romantic tale because that’s the way we often think of these journeys. It’s all glory and fun and magic and cake. Reality is different. There are no special tricks I used, no hidden gems of wisdom that I can impart to help make permatravel your reality – or whatever it is you’re looking for.

It was all rather mundane stuff.

This is great news, because it means you’re actually a lot closer than you realized to doing it.

For starters, I sold the expensive things I owned – musical instruments. A drum kit, several guitars, a saxophone, trumpet, keyboard and bass guitar all found kind new owners. After all, I couldn’t take them with me, and at the time I wasn’t counting on playing music again. It made far more sense to use those resources on something I could do.

Next, I asked my parents that, in lieu of a birthday gift, they help pay for my plane ticket to Europe.

(Quick reminder that the best way to get what you want tends to be asking for it)

Then I packed a medium sized backpack with all the stuff I wanted to carry (it was full only because one item was a bike helmet and left.

Sexy, right?

You can do the same. Find a backpack, fill it, leave. Give your extra stuff to friends to keep or look after as you please. Sell the rest.

The big thing about these decisions is we’re looking for some technique that will allow us do to what we want without doing the requisite work. We have to pay with either time and energy or money. I had no job and no hopes for one, so I turned my resources on hand into cash. Your situation will be unique to you, but the underlying principal is the same. If you want the result, pay the price. Otherwise – do something else! This is how it works in reality – not some late-night infomercial or MMO blog.

Planning

You might be one of those individuals who likes to plan things in advance. If so, you’ll probably enjoy some of my favorite resources, and be glad that for once we’re on the same side of the debate:

Need to know where it’ll be easiest to go? Search Google for “visa requirements for [MY COUNTRY] citizens” and pull up the Wikipedia article.

This is where I start – my 1 stop shop for seeing how long I can stay in each country and whether I need to apply (and pay) for a visa.

Then, if you need a plane ticket (or other paid transportation), I’d use Kayak Explore, Skyscanner, and Rome2Rio.com – the last of which searches all modes of transport.

My only advice for plane tickets is this: Try to buy 8 weeks out or more, it’s statistically the best for prices. Last minute deals barely exist any more and aren’t worth betting on. And once you’ve found the best price, search for the same flight on different sites.

Also – clear your browser cache before you buy, some sites jack up prices on people doing repeated searches, sneaky devils.

Then, as soon as you find a price you like, get it. Prices are far more likely to rise than fall…

(Not) Paying For Food, Transportation, and Lodging

Most people would think that traveling for $1,000 a month is crazy. No way could it be done. No way could it be fun. Well I did it for $200 for a good while, so time for a paradigm shift.

For starters, I’d like you to imagine how to travel if you had no money and weren’t going to earn any.

Uncomfortable, right? But keep at it, and you’ll probably have some realizations that you could actually do it if you wanted.

This is the best starting point. Start at zero. Make a system that works. Then inject money into it if you feel it’s really necessary.

My rules for minimalist travel are rather simple: Never do anything that feels unsafe. Never go hungry or compromise your health. Spending as little as possible is not the goal, empowering yourself to do whatever you want, regardless of your inherited beliefs about price tags – is.

General Rule

Locals always know where the deals and freebies are. Or rather, if anyone knows it’s going to be a local – not Google. Taking to people is probably the best way to save money and find interesting thing to do and see.

Now, let’s take the specific categories one by one:

Food

I’ve written about 10 ways to get a free meal if you have no money, and the 6 best foods to buy if you’re broke – but if you’re not into that, the most simple option is to eat food fresh from markets/supermarkets – buy what the locals do, and pay what they pay.

Restaurants are fun and all, but they’re not a prerequisite of a meaningful existence. Again, the big problem we face here is mindset, not technique. The techniques are easy. Go into a store and buy the cheapest local produce as well as a couple extra goodies (nuts, meat, fish, cheese, eggs) according to your food interests.

That is not hard. Anyone can do that. I know, I’ve seen it! The hard part is giving up the prestige of fine dining. If only there was a good advice blog that could help with that…

Transportation

Rule #1 of cheap transportation: No transportation is the cheapest! Staying in 1 place for 2-3 months – if not more – is not only a great way to get acquainted with a culture, but it’s light on the wallet too.

Rule #2: Cycling & hitchhiking are free. On a tight budget of $0? Then choose the moneyless options. Hitchwiki.org offers hitchhiking advice, and so do I: The most important thing is not letting people drop you where you have to walk 10 miles to get back on the highway. If they’re getting off – you’re getting out.

The only things we need to pay for are flights, and those should be 1-2x per year max!

And fine, if you need a rule #3 – locals know what buses and other transport will get you to and from places for cheaper than the tourist centers will.

Accommodation

Please, please tell me you’ve heard of CouchSurfing by now. I’ve surfed and hosted and it;s one of the best ways to meet people and learn about the place you’re staying. I even have an article about how to make the perfect couch request.

Otherwise, I go to one of those hostel booking sites and choose the cheapest one, in the dorm. Just watch out for bedbug infestations, which can happen in surprising locations (they’re easy to unwittingly transfer in one’s luggage, to the chagrin of hostel and hostel owners everywhere). Otherwise the cheapest listed place usually seems to be totally adequate. And it’s a great way to meet other budget travelers like yourself and swap tips.

Earning Money on the Road

The best way to earn money on the road for most English speakers will be to teach it. I didn’t do that until rather late. We have the interesting distinction that, even if we have no experience or qualifications, someone somewhere wants to hire us simply because we speak English.

I’m going to reserve judgment on this.

For myself, I did freelance writing for a time, then I had my computer stolen and ran out of money.

That wasn’t particularly fun, but it comes with the territory. It’s a different sort of lifestyle, permatravel.

Another good option is WWOOFing, if you like the idea of working on an organic farm in return for food and a warm bed. Not earning money per-se, but it’s a different way to “afford” your travel.

I met people who played music, sold jewelery, did street performing, and all sorts of crazy stuff in order to make enough to keep going. It’s actually fairly simple if your fun-thermometer doesn’t rise and fall with the cost of what you’re doing. At my most frugal, I was able to live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for $150 a month – and that was even staying in a hostel.

It all comes down to our mindset.

Mindset

As you can see, all of the techniques are easy. But I bet there came a point or ten where you thought “I could never do that”, or “that’s easy for him to say, he had almost no money, no possessions, no voice, and no job – of course he could do it.”

Whether you say you can or you can’t – you are most probably correct.

This is one of the reasons that I think everyone should take a year and do something like this. It can challenge what we believe reality is, how we interact with the world, and be the catalyst for some amazing personal growth.

I am naturally not a big spender, but being so minimalist really made me realize what it is I value in life – meaningful conversation (hence my love of languages), creating things, moving my body, helping people. Nothing that requires some special permission, budget, or degree.

In the end, it all comes down to what I talked about earlier: Are we willing to do what’s necessary to get what we want? Or maybe, do we just like the idea of the thing. That’s okay too. Not everything is as good in reality as it is in our imagination. Permatravel, if nothing else, will be different than you imagined. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave it for you to decide.