Is it “just life” or just a lie?

“That’s  just  life”.

I’ve  been  hearing  that  since  I  was  a  child.

“But  daaaaad,  I  want  a power pad for my Nintendo, LA Gear hi tops, tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, and the Saved by the Bell board game. ”
Without skipping a beat or even looking up from what he was doing, my dad would say, “that’s  just  life.  So  go  to  your  room and run in place for a few hours in your Kmart Keds, while listening to the Paula Abdul songs you taped from the radio and making up your own Saved by the Bell trivia from the hours of that stupid show that you have memorized… and consider yourself lucky for having a roof over your head to do all that in.”

“But daaaad, I want a pager, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a hyper color jumpsuit, and AOL instant messaging like ALL my friends have!!”
And again, my dad would smoothly follow that up with, “that’s just life. When I was a kid and we wanted to get a hold of someone we just yelled their name until they yelled back, we wrote on stone tablets that wouldn’t fit in fancy trapper keepers, the only “hyper color” we had were the weird rashes that we got when the McCormick kids touched us, and when we wanted to message someone we left hieroglyphics on the cave walls and didn’t have to keep track of how many of the 130 free hours we’d used from CD’s we got in the mail!

Cue my eye roll, audible groan, and stomping off to slam my bedroom door.

In other words, it didn’t  take  long  for  me  to  learn  to  translate  “that’s  just  life”  to  “stop  whining  and  leave  me  the  hell  alone”.  I  got  pretty  used  to  that  phrase.

So I was pretty surprised to find as an adult that this phrase still evoked a strong emotional response from me.

“But  (person  who was NOT my  dad),  I  hate  getting  up  every  single  morning  at  5am,  driving  through  traffic  to  sit  behind  a  desk  doing  only  boring  things,  driving  home,  yelling  at  my  husband  because  I  hate  this  day  and  every  other  day,  then  going  to  bed  without  doing  a  single  thing I actually consider important in life,  only  to  get  up  the  next  day  and  the  day  after  that  to  do  the  same  thing.  It  feels  so  meaningless  and  I  feel  like  life  is  a  gift  and  I’m  totally  wasting  it.  Sure  I  understand  the  value  of  hard work,  but  isn’t  it  possible  for  that  hard work  to  go  into  something  I  love  or  that  makes  a  difference  in  the  world?  Surely  we  are  all meant  to  do  different  things  in  different  ways  since  we  are  all  made  so  differently.  Someone  else  might  totally  thrive  at  this  job  and  love  using  their  gifts  here  but  I  just  don’t  think  I’m  cut  out  for  it.”

“That’s  just  life”.

Like the many times when I’d heard this as a child, I lost my temper. But unlike the olden days, this time I didn’t just pout and walk away.  Instead I narrowed my eyes that had been widened by the shock, and dove in to make my point.
“Yes,  but  it  doesn’t  HAVE  to  be  that  way.  It’s  not  my  husband’s  life!  While  I’m  getting  up  in  the  cold  early  morning,  he’s  lying  in  bed  where  he’ll  sleep  until  10am.  Then  tonight  while  I’m  getting  ready  to  go  to  bed  early,  he’ll  be  getting  ready  to  go  out  with  the college students  he’s  mentoring  to  have  fun  with  them.  He’s  doing  something  he  loves AND  he’s  making  a  difference  in  the  world. Why  shouldn’t  I  try  for  the  same  things?”

Needless to say, I didn’t hear much more about it from that person after my sort of rude and as some would say, “socially inappropriate”, outburst.

I just don’t believe it.

The thing is that I’ll  believe  you  if  you  say, “I too wish I could be living differently but I’m too scared to try” or ” sure that sounds awesome but I’m not willing to work hard enough to create that kind of change”. Whatever you say, don’t say “that’s  just  life”. Because it’s NOT just life. Life doesn’t HAVE to be like that. In fact, I don’t think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! I think we’re supposed to be truly living and reaching for more in life than just basic survival! I believe we should be doing what it takes to live a life of meaning and using all that is in us to do our very best to find out what we’re meant to do in life… and then take the risk, put in the effort, and face the fears that will lead us to our Rare Existence (whether that guide us to a 8-5 office job with a family, or a shot at the silver screen with a pet monkey).

When I’m wanting a bunch of useless stuff, that might not even be good for me (is a hyper color jumpsuit really good for anyone?!), and I’m wanting it just to be cool like my friends or to chat with said cool friends on the new information super highway, I’m fine if my dad or anyone else says “that’s just life”. But when it comes down to what’s really important in life, don’t say “that’s just life” because really, “that’s just a lie”…. and I refuse to believe it.

post 48

Finding Your Significance in the World

As a follow up to my post last week about finding value through comparison, here’s a question…

 

If all your talents and gifts were put on mute, and everything that previously made you feel successful or worthy of praise was put on hold, what would make you feel valuable?

 

Think about it for awhile and then go enjoy some Christmas cookies before Santa jacks them all. Merry Christmas.

The Disney Philosophy

Those hours upon hours of watching Disney cartoons as a child taught me a lot. 
I know the importance of contentment. I know what happens when someone wants more and more power, more and more money, and more and more land… they become the bad guy with their own scary theme song and they end up getting featured at Disneyland’s Halloween show. Oh yeah, they also end up either trapped inside a magic lamp or turning all shrivelly and seaweed-ish. If they’re REALLY greedy, they get thrown off a cliff or the roof of a castle.  So yes, I  know that you’re supposed to be content and happy wearing the same princess dress every day and wandering around singing in nature with happy little creatures all around you without any conflict, goals, or cares in the world.  Life doesn’t get any better than that right?

Well have you ever seen the “modern fairy tales that people write nowadays? 
Sometimes Cinderella is slaving away for her 401K instead of for an evil stepmother, sometimes the 7 dwarfs never meet Snow White because there was a cave in at the mine, and sometimes Aladdin gets shot up in the ghetto before making it to the palace where Jasmine is.  I think the moral of those stories is that being content with your position in life as the pretty girl who wanders around singing is not always the best way to go. Some of the more modern Disney movies even, have Princesses who seek adventure, do the courageous thing, and strive for more out of life.  The moral of modern fairy tales and modern Disney: Sometimes it’s OK to push harder and fight to improve the quality of life for yourself and those around you.

(Just for fun, here are some photos from the “Fallen Princess” photo series by Dina Goldstein)

So there’s the balance. 
Don’t become a greedy bad guy (or else the animators will make you ugly and you will face ultimate doom… except for your once a year appearance at Disneyland) and don’t become satisfied with a sucky, boring life (because there’s very little chance that your fairy godmother or magic genie is coming to save you).

That’s the lesson we learn from animated Disney characters: if you balance contentment with hard work and persistence then you will live happily ever after. The End.

 

Is Extraordinary Living Selfish?

Since my initial concept of this blog began to form, there is one major challenge I have wrestled with constantly.  Am I putting myself first too much in my attempt to live a Rare Existence?  The fact that you are currently reading this blog means that I have decided the answer is no. But still, it is a question that requires some thought, so I’m putting my musings out there.

There are 3 main reasons I do not believe extraordinary living is selfish.

1. Your role in the world matters.

Yes, I do believe that loving the world around you and giving of yourself to humanity as a whole are key elements to a well lived life.
I do not see living an extraordinary life as being in opposition to that life model, in fact I think they go hand in hand quite well. I believe that people’s talents, experiences, weaknesses, strengths, genetic predispositions, etc. all make up one whole unique person.  And it is my belief that each one whole unique person exists to fill certain holes in the world in a way that only that specific person with that specific makeup can fill. That said, I believe that if you are doing something that you are not fit to do or living as if every person were meant to do the same things, then you are going to be unsatisfied and potentially inhibit the world around you from living up to it’s full potential.
The main reason I think everyone should be living the destiny they are made for, is because I believe it is the main thing that will make their life beneficial to those around them.  I definitely agree that living your life for the good of others is the number one priority…  I just happen to think that living the life you are meant to live is one of the best ways to do that.

 2. Sacrificial love isn’t always what it seems.

Yes, life and love require sacrifices. It’s not all sunshine and roses and it’s not all about pursuing things that make you happy.  Sometimes you do things you don’t like for the sake of others.
The problem arises when people define themselves by these sacrifices.
It is so much easier to play the victim.  So much simpler to not push yourself in life because you simply assume your position holds you stationary.  No, life doesn’t always go as planned, no life is not all about our happiness, and yes sometimes love does require more sacrifice than we want to make.  But within all that we still have choices, and no one choice has to define us for the rest of our life because we still have choices after that.  Many people let the sacrifice phase run their entire life so that it no longer can be called a phase, but rather…well, it’s just called their life at that point. Spending your entire life sacrificing what you are meant to be doing with your life for the sake of others has consequences to not only you but to those you believe you are sacrificing for.
The good intentions behind our sacrifices can quickly turn into excuses to avoid our fears.
When this happens, we begin basing our life decisions on fear disguised as love and this is of benefit to no one, no matter how much we want to believe it is.  We are telling ourselves that we are living the way we are for the sake of another person, when really that person/situation can go on just fine without us.  But we are incapable of acknowledging that because that is going to require more self-examination and change than we are ready for.  When we get to this point, we are in the danger zone because there is a good chance that we are doing more harm than good by what we are still calling a “loving sacrifice.”  It’s important to constantly ask yourself “are my past sacrifices still necessary or am I just stuck in a bad routine that I have been afraid of questioning?”  Knowing when to make sacrifices for others is just as important as knowing when to move forward with your life within that sacrifice, or when to let go of the sacrifice entirely.
 I fully believe that you can commit to truly loving others in life and still pursue an extraordinary life.
Sacrificing for others doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams and loving people doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to be happy yourself.  In fact, for many people, living an extraordinary life is all about giving up their comforts to enable them to love others better (as in the story of Kelli that I featured awhile back).  I also believe that love, happiness, filling the role you are destined for, and selflessness all fit together very well and often create a circle where each aspect feeds and strengthens the others.

3. Your loved ones will thank you.

Anyone who is drained of passion, hope, and joy is not going to be of much use to people around them.
If you are a mom who has become a complete martyr for your children and do not have a single ounce of self-esteem or personal identity left in you… what are teaching your kids about life?  If you are a husband who uses every ounce of energy you have to just survive every single workday long enough to be able to make it home and zone out in front of the TV… what kind of love are you able to give to your wife and what kind of example are you being to your kids about how to love people?
Sick people can’t make others healthy because disease spreads.  Push aside your fears and be willing to constantly ask yourself what needs to be done for the greater good of others… you might be surprised that it requires that you be healthy and happy so you can love others well.  Make the choice to be a healthy person who can lead others to health by example.

The bottom line is that though extraordinary living is focusing on yourself and your own life while pursuing changes that might result in your own personal happiness, that doesn’t make it selfish; because it is those very changes that will most likely result in positive changes in the lives of those around you. If doing what you are meant to be doing with your life makes you happier (and it’s likely that it will) that does not automatically make you selfish. Happiness does not have to equal selfishness. If you are pursuing your own happiness IN SPITE of what’s best for those around you, well then that’s another story. But extraordinary living is not about finding what you WANT to do with your life but what you are MEANT to do with your life and I don’t believe what you are truly meant to do with your life is something that will be detrimental to your loved ones, but in fact beneficial to them… as well as to yourself. As long as your happiness comes from things that are good and true then it is a gift from God and can be one of the greatest sources of the love that you extend to others.

The Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

A Culture of Identity Chaos

This may be a statement full of youthful ignorance, but I really believe that my generation is facing something that hasn’t been an issue before (or at least it hasn’t been an issue during the lifespan of all our currently living relatives… who knows, maybe ancient Greece dealt with it or something).  Here’s the thing… back in the “olden” days of America, your world was pretty small (compared to today when you can live in the U.S. yet see and talk to people in India in real time, or even have colleagues who work alongside you from Malaysia!).  Long gone are the days when you chose between the 3 factories in your town, got a job there, bought a house nearby, and worked there until retirement because you knew your company would take care of you.  Maybe that’s why people call it the “simpler times”. Ever heard of a pension?  Some of my younger readers maybe haven’t because they are not reality anymore.  Now, we literally have every single choice in the world.  Many jobs enable you to live or move to anywhere in the world, force you to compete with the best of the best worldwide (rather than with only the people who live in your small town), or even enable you to have 2 or 3 jobs simultaneously because each requires just a few hours of computer time a day (so much for factoring in commuting time!).

Aside from the globalization of the workforce, the biggest change I’m talking about here is the fact that there is little incentive for a company to keep you on board for very long.

They can hire someone in another country to do it cheaper or better. And there is even less reason for a person to choose to remain at their current jobs because they too have world wide options and have no promise of a rewarding for dedicating their entire life to one company.

Not to mention in the olden days, your job really was a major part of who you were and what defined you. 

For example, my grandpa was the “telephone guy” and he climbed up telephone poles everyday for 25+ years of his life.  He owned a house in a certain neighborhood that was near his work, his friends were often co-workers, and his view of the world  was shaped by the world that surrounded him every day during those 25 + years.  It wasn’t until retirement that he was faced with choices about who he was and what he wanted to become.  He had his pension and he could’ve happily chilled for many years of his life, which I’m assuming he probably tried… only it didn’t last long because even to this day he can’t still still for more than 3 minutes at a time… and then big questions began.  (By the way, he eventually became a pilot and he loved it!)

So what does it mean when we have a culture who’s not nearly as limited in our geography, social network, or culture as we were in the past?

The question of your identity has an entire world of new options open to it!  I’m not even going to get into the fact that we have access to all the information, talents, entertainment, etc. etc. worldwide- because I’m sure you’ve heard enough “information overload” rants to last a lifetime- but that is a part of all this as well. Also take into account that the few parts of your identity that are still defined by your job are completely unstable because our jobs are in constant flux!  We as individuals in this culture, are in a constant state of reinventing ourselves. After all, I was a counseling student, then a photographer, and now a writer, right?! That’s not counting all the other non-career jobs I’ve had… and I’m not even 30 years old yet!  (I’ve heard it said that the average length of time an American stays at a job is 3-5 years and that fluctuates depending on the person’s age). The questions that my grandpa dealt with when he retired are now being faced by people about every 3 years!  How are we ever supposed to feel at rest or connected- either to ourselves or to a community- how will we ever really know ourselves when our entire skill set, knowledge base, and daily experiences and routines change every few years?  My grandpa knew the art of climbing telephone poles REALLY well.  What are you good at?  Have you ever worked at something long enough to even find out? Even if you found something you were good at and enjoyed, did you get bored because you knew there was something new and different waiting just around the corner for you?

Okay, okay I’m getting WAY ahead of myself.  I’m just trying to give you a taste of the overwhelming mix of factors go into our identity distress at this current point in time.  There are countless discussions and social commentaries that we could go on and on about the causes/effects, pros/cons, etc of this issue and I am by no means about to tackle them all right now!  However, you are always free to start up a discussion on this (or anything else related to extraordinary living) by posting questions for other readers to answer on the Rare Existence Facebook wall!

The bottom line is that we have no idea who we are, and yet we are constantly being forced to try and find out…. and this leads to crazy cases of identity confusion! 

And that can be VERY frustrating!  I’m pretty sure this is actually the very reason that this entire Rare Existence blog is here. I’ve had countless friends who have been hardcore struggling with these issues for the past few years and it has been killing me that I can’t just give them the answers.  This blog is here due to my desire to help them and people like them who just feel stuck in their lives, while facing an overwhelming world of possibilities, and have absolutely no idea where to go from here.  It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Having limitless choices, but feeling stuck?  That’s why it’s so freaking frustrating!  You feel like a moron, or at least slightly schizo in need of some serious counseling, when in reality I believe you are actually just another member of the masses.

Now that I think about it, I think there is a very good chance that many of you have been getting pretty annoyed as you’ve followed my blog so far.

I sit up here preaching, “change your life, do things differently!” etc., etc. and you are just sighing and saying “again?!  I have no idea who I am or what I want and you are asking me to reinvent my already undefined self AGAIN?!”  My only reply to that is an ever so tentative and slightly apologetic, “um, yes?” But don’t worry, I’m not just going to sit up on my soap box and expect you to figure out all by yourself how to do this.  The next few blogs are intended to help you sort through your identity chaos.  If you feel really secure and defined in your identity, first of all give me your secret, second of all don’t feel that this doesn’t apply to you because there’s a good chance it will apply the next time you choose or are forced to reinvent yourself.

Beginning to Define it For Yourself

What?! You’re not me?! Really? Are you sure? I could’ve sworn…

Your definition for an extraordinary life is unique.

If everyone’s definitions were the same, it would just be called “ordinary living” and I definitely wouldn’t be wasting so many of my youthful years telling you about it (I have mountains to conquer and dragons to slay you know). You can’t compare your definition to that of others (unless of course yours is way better than theirs), and you shouldn’t stop reading Rare Existence if your definition is different than mine. If you have kids, your extraordinary word isn’t freedom, or you’ve worked hard to find yourself at the top in a very demanding career that you love….then you haven’t committed any terminal sins that prevent you from living an extraordinary life, you’re just not me (but you might want to try it because being me is AWESOME)!

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve known what they wanted to do with their lives since they were 5 (no, I didn’t say “what their PARENTS wanted them to do with their lives”, that doesn’t count) and some of those paths that they are SO excited to head down, don’t naturally involve much freedom.  But as long as they’re doing what they truly love, they probably won’t care much.  For them “success” might be their word and freedom could be their ordinary word and I wouldn’t think anything less of them. Besides, life isn’t all about your career, whether you put the word “extraordinary” in front of it or not.

No excuses are good enough.

While I just said that this isn’t all about your career and I’m alright with the fact that your career choices will probably be different than mine anyways… I take back all of  it if you are really just using your career as an excuse for why you aren’t pursuing your extraordinary life. Not cool man, not cool. I can see right through you… and so will everyone else when all your real goals and dreams come crashing down around you to reveal what you should’ve been doing all along. Your career is not an excuse.

The same applies if you have kids. Please, PLEASE do not let that be your excuse!  I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a good one!  A unique challenge maybe, I’ll give you that. But an excuse, never. In fact, I believe that the very reason you absolutely need to be living your extraordinary life is BECAUSE you have kids and they need a healthy parent who is a good example of how to live with passion and joy (didn’t you read my Emma Pillsbury quote at the end of post #4?).

I know plenty of families who have lived very extraordinary lives together. Since you might not believe it from someone who doesn’t have kids yet (me) I am going to hope I can convince you by enlisting plenty of help from extraordinary parents I know who seek to live extraordinary lives right along with their kids!  Just the other day I just met a man from Holland, who lives in Mexico, and sells Argentinean food.  He has two kids and he moved to Mexico with is girlfriend in search of freedom and a home on the beach… it can be done!

It’s OK if you have NO IDEA what your definition for an extraordinary life is!

I think it’s pretty normal to feel clueless.  Any discovery process is complex, confusing, and can be quite overwhelming.  That’s why we’re doing it together… and we’re starting out slowly.  These first few posts are just to get you on board with the concepts I’m talking about here and we’ll dive more in-depth into some pro-active steps for you to work on soon enough.

Perfection is not required.  Complete clarity in your identity is not needed.  Inexplicable, mysterious, or magical talents are not a pre-requisite for this course (but if you do have some of those, please tell me so I can proceed to steal them… Brewhahah!!).  All I’m asking from you at this point is that you’re ready to start thinking. And I’m hoping that you’ll eventually be ready to start acting on your thinking.

So wherever you are coming from, wherever you are at… it’s time to start moving towards where you want to go…. whether or not you even know exactly where that is yet.

 

 

The Ordinary Word

The yin and the yang. The black and the white. The light and the dark. Perez Hilton and Vin Diesel. Our world seems to keep it’s balance through opposites. And it’s no different when it comes to extraordinary words.

For every extraordinary word there is an anti-word… an “ordinary word”.

The ordinary word is the one that sits on your other shoulder, taunting you and your goody two-shoes extraordinary word with his pitchfork, evil sneer, and sarcastic tone. I hate to tell you this, but if we’re going to pursue our extraordinary word, we have to forsake our ordinary word.
So what’s the opposite of my extraordinary word, freedom?  Are you sure you want to know…. it really sucks to hear.

The opposite of freedom is security.

Ew I know! Why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t they just be causal friends who only see each other on Christmas and Easter? At the very least they should be Facebook friends! Really guys, you should try to work something out here for those of us who don’t want to take sides. We want to hang out with BOTH of you, it isn’t fair that we have to choose!
But alas, it’s the truth. The more freedom you have, the less security you have, and vice versa.  As much as I want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I never heard that,  it’s true.

This is my great struggle in my pursuit of an extraordinary life.

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that my Achilles heel is fear.  And in an attempt to fight the things I’m afraid of, control is my weapon of choice.  Fear and Control are definitely blood relatives of Security. On Christmas and Easter they all get together in Security’s giant house and eat the feast that their buddy Paycheck brought them. Freedom isn’t invited because he’s off sun-bathing in Tahiti with his friends, and besides they’d rather gossip about how foolish and irresponsible he is than actually talk to him anyways. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting at home praying for peace on earth so that we can all go enjoy Paycheck’s meal together!

This is the reason that every time I come to a crossroads in my life, a major battle ensues.  On the one hand… Freedom, waving his late bedtimes and quality relationships to tempt me.  And on the other road, Security is taking me on a tour of a beautiful new house that could be mine and reenacting for me the fictional story (that I once believed strongly) about how I can have complete control over my life.
Don’t be surprised if my head explodes from all of this one day.  And when that happens, I’m sure Freedom will just shake his head in disappointed sorrow that all of this could’ve been avoided if only I’d chosen right from the beginning.  And Security will just come and apathetically sweep up the messy remains that were once my life… which is the exact same thing he’d planned to do as soon as I joined his side anyways.

(Thanks to my brother, Paul McDaniel, who drew me this picture as a visual representation of this post!)

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to show people that we’re not magical, we’re not special, and we don’t have it all figured out.

I say that because people are always telling me how jealous they are of our freedom.  I do know why and I am very grateful for the benefits my job brings… because I know there are a lot of them. But it’s important that you know that we don’t have special powers. I promise, we don’t even have Spidy senses; and we definitely don’t have sticky, disgusting spider webs that shoot out of our fingertips (poor spider man got all the stupid powers).

We have the life we do because we’ve chosen it… and you can choose it too. But you WILL have to sacrifice things you may not be willing to give up. You’re going to have to leave behind your ordinary word. Maybe not right away of course,  it’s OK if you’re not ready for that.  But you’ll probably be asked to do it at some point, so steal one last kiss and start saying your goodbyes now because this train is leaving, Baby.

Ordinary people live by ordinary words. 

They can’t see past their deep-rooted fears long enough to reach for that intangible future. So they don’t.  They hold on tight to their ordinary word, often completely unaware that it is exactly what’s keeping them from clinging to their extraordinary word and the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted that comes with it. There’s a reason this existence is rare. The sacrifices are great, but the blessings from it are limitless.

Choose your words wisely.

Post #5: Your entire life in one word

Everyone has a single word that defines them.

At least that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert told me in “Eat, Pray, Love”. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve begun to believe her.

She begins explaining this concept by naming various cities and what their words are.  For example, New York is ACHEIVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Rome is SEX -or POWER if you’re talking about Vatican City (I’ve never been to Rome so I can neither confirm or deny these rumors).

So, do you know your word? Is it FAMILY, DEPRESSION, PLEASURE, FAITH, DEVOTION… etc, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a positive word, it only has to be true.  If your word happens to be one you don’t like then go ahead and name it, but make sure you add on to it the one you WISH was true… we’ll call that your “extraordinary word”. And that’s the one we’re going to be working on here.

So what is it? What’s your word?

I knew my word without hesitation.  When I asked Scottie his word, it didn’t surprise me that he answered with the same word without even pausing for a second.

Our word is FREEDOM. 

By freedom, I don’t mean that we lack disciple, rules, and boundaries.  I have those, I want those, and I need those.  The only difference is that I want to have a say in where to place them.  I want to set up my life so that I feel like I am always able to choose to do what I believe is best for me and my family, rather than to have an outside person or force choose for me. Time freedom, freedom from debt, emotional freedom, freedom to choose where to place my energy, freedom from addictions, freedom from unhealthy societal pressures,  freedom to choose a unique lifestyle for me and my family… all of those things (and many others) are small parts that go into this bigger picture of freedom for us. The last thing we want in the world is to end up in a place where all our decisions about those things have been made for us – without any regard to whether or not they are good for us – because we were too passive to care or too lazy to act.

We believe it’s our responsibility to make the rules for our life and that we shouldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for us; not society, the government, social norms, family pressures, etc., etc. It’s our job and if we choose not to do it, we have no one to blame for the results but ourselves.

 

Why is this level of freedom so important to us? Because we got tired of being hypocrites.

We continually found ourselves saying what was important to us, only to look around and see that our lives didn’t reflect those things at all.

“Relationships are our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why all you know more about the characters on the TV shows you watch while you work than you do about your best friends?

“Our marriage is our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why you just called your wife a Fatty-McButter Pants after a stressful day at the office?

“Helping others is our #1 priority.” Oh really? And the last time you did anything like that was….? It doesn’t count that you gave the neighbor kid a quarter because he was short for change at the soda machine.

I got so tired of feeling like I “had” to do things a certain way, because those certain ways made me feel like I was unable to do what was really important in life. So I started looking around to see if I could find other ways to do things. And I found that the answer was to seek freedom because that will be what enables us to do our best at what’s really important to us.  Things like, creating and maintaining community, being generous with any kind of resource we have (whether it’s money, love, knowledge, hospitality, etc.), living a healthy lifestyle (we still have a LONG way to go on this one!), traveling, pursuing our passions, loving endlessly, and experiencing overwhelming joy and beauty in life.  That is an extraordinary life for us, and the key to all of this (in a really long and complex way that is too much to explain in one post) is freedom. So freedom we shall seek.

So what is it? What’s your word?

Post #3: 3 Things you Need to Control Your Own Destiny

I believe there are 3 things that make up our destiny… luck, choices, and hard work.

And we’re going to be talking about these 3 things a ton as Rare Existence moves forward. I’ll start now with the cliff notes version of my thoughts on these…

 

1. Luck is out of your control, so ignore it.

Whether you believe it’s God, fate, luck, physics, or the tooth fairy, you have to admit that there is something out there that makes things happen outside of our own will. For simplicity’s sake, and my lack of time to get into an existential argument with you about this right now, we’ll call it luck here. The thing about luck is that It will happen or it won’t, you’re blessed with the right gifts, circumstances, or opportunities, or you’re not… and there’s nothing you can do about it, so just pray that it comes and leave it at that. And if it happens to avoid you for some reason, please use every ounce of energy in you to try not to blame everything in your life on that (or on anything for that matter because passing blame is always harmful to you). If you do choose to spend your time fretting about your bad luck or lack of good luck, you will never find it in you to focus on the other two things you need in order to achieve the life you are meant to live. Just pretend that luck doesn’t exist so that you are neither wasting your time waiting for it or blaming it… because doing either will hinder you greatly. Luck does matter, but you have to live like it doesn’t.

 

2. Poor past choices make things harder but they do not ruin your chance for an extraordinary life.

Choices do matter significantly because consequences matter significantly, but bad choices in the past are possible to overcome, they just create extra work for you to get beyond them is all.  Sometimes that’s A LOT of extra work. Sometimes it’s so much extra work that people stop trying or just quit before they even start because they believe it’s impossible. And that’s why choices gets listed as one of the 3 things that affect your destiny… because the consequences of bad choices can make you give up.
Actually, poor past choices don’t really have to be one of the 3 factors that affect your destiny, if you don’t let them. Just like luck, this is not something you need to focus on to be successful, it’s really something you need to STOP focusing on the be successful. If you keep the focus on #3 (hard work) and just accept that your past choices might make you have to work a double shift in the hard work department, you’ll be alright. Paying the consequence of poor past choices works just like getting out of financial debt…you work twice as hard for a time to pay off what you owe for your past decisions and then eventually you find yourself back to even, ready to spend that energy you were using to pay for what was behind to now focus on moving forward. Focusing on your past mistakes and feeling sorry for yourself rather than taking action to fix them is just as bad as waiting for the Kool-Aid man to rescue you. Stop focusing on it and start working towards something better. I’m not trying to minimize your problems, I know they matter and affect you significantly and I do have compassion for you in that. I also know it can be so very hard to let go of the things you are beating yourself up for, but it’s the only way to think and live if you want an extraordinary life so you absolutely have to figure out how to move on.
As far as your future choices, be careful and thoughtful even when it comes to the seemingly smallest things. Since I was young I’ve believed that everyone is going a direction, even if they aren’t actively choosing that direction, but just letting it passively happen to them. Even the tiniest baby steps are taking you somewhere (just ask Bob).  Never believe that you are standing still, you aren’t.  You are either going the direction you want or the direction you don’t want. Choose wisely and make sure you actively CHOOSE instead of letting it just happen to you. Passive movement is almost worse than poor choice movement.

 

3.  If you believe in hard work over luck you will go farther.

I can’t count how many times people look at me longingly and say, “you guys are just so lucky” and while I know what they mean and I agree with them that my job has amazing perks, it’s still a fact that if they happen to say that during our really busy season when we are each working 80+ hours a week and my only friends are the characters on Weeds that I watch while I work, those people who tell me that are “so lucky” I don’t punch them in the face. Even more than their actual words, what bothers me most is the look in their eyes when they say it. It tells me right away they don’t believe the phrase “live your dreams” is meant for them.  It’s only meant for other people and they just aren’t one of the lucky ones so it’s just impossible and not worth trying at all. Yes, luck makes things easier, but it’s not a permanent state of your identity.  If you believe you are permanently a lucky person or an unlucky person then you will most definitely end up an unlucky person (what the psychology types call a self-fulfilling prophesy) because you will never ever make the right choices or put in the necessary hard work to MAKE things happen for yourself.  You have to try to MAKE yourself lucky, and that comes through hard work. If you work hard and stumble onto a stroke of luck, you will be successful. If you work hard and never stumble on a stroke of luck, you could still be successful. If you never work hard, your only option for success will be to grow a red beard, wear a green cap and suit, and carry around a pot of gold because you are going to have to actually BECOME a leprechaun to find the kind of miraculous luck you will need for there to be any chance in hell that you are going to be successful.  So bottom line, work like luck doesn’t exist.  Make you’re luck and then whether luck does or doesn’t go your way, you’re still much more likely to be better off than if you are just sitting around playing video games waiting for the Kool-Aid man to bust through your wall, say “OH YEAH”, and hand you the key to your big break. Keep on waiting, buddy. And if it does happen… puhLEASE send me pictures of you with your arm around around the Kool-Aid man because that is AWESOME and I really do hope that happens to someone!

Don’t forget that living the life you are meant to live, means there’s room in the equation for everything that has ever happened to you (whether it’s because of chance or because of you).  As I said in the first post, the life we are meant to live is made up of everything that makes you up, including your luck, your past, and your work ethic.  It is your responsibility to attempt to understand the things that make you up and to strengthen and utilize them in a way that will fill the place in the world that’s waiting for you. No excuses.  Only thinking, identifying, working, and improving. Let’s go.