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 #4: John Mayer is a Liar and Peter Pan is a Hero

No one wants to be “that guy”.

The guy you rolled your eyes at in your early 20’s while spewing explosive promises about how you would NEVER let yourself become like that.  You were convinced you were different, that you saw the truth and that would keep you from ever allowing a house, a job, a budget, a boss, the laundry, a schedule, or anything else you considered to be completely devoid of heart to suck all the passion out of your life.

So stop and take a look now… are you as different from that as you thought you’d be?

I’ll think I’m in pretty good shape and holding up well to my youthful ideals until I one day find myself clutching my steering wheel until my knuckles are white while yelling back at my radio whenever John Mayer tries to give me hope… “SCREW YOU JOHN MAYER!! There is, there is, there IS too such a thing as the real world!  I’m TRYING to rise above and it’s just not possible!  I hope one of your non-real world celebrity girlfriends pops a fake boob and you get silicone in your eye!!!”

This moment is always a red flag.  

But you know you’re in very real trouble when you proceed to spend the rest of the day crying on the couch, clutching your childhood Teddy Bear, Fuzzy, while trying to think happy thoughts in hopes that you’re feet will slowly begin to lift on the ground and you will fly away to Never Never Land to join Tink and the Lost Boys.  If you start chasing your shadow around the living room trying to catch it, call the hospital.

Time to start asking the important questions (actually it’s way past time at that point because I hear it’s hard to journal while wearing a straight jacket).

Like I said, no one wants to be “that guy”. The” old, fat, grandpa man” that Robin Williams played in Hook who actually friggin FORGOT he was Peter Pan!! That guy who has lost all his identity to the “real world”, who has nothing of REAL value left inside himself that he is able to extend to others. When you are sucked dry of all the emotions that make you a “real boy” rather than just a wooden puppet (stress doesn’t count by the way… and yes, I switched stories on you for a second there), who are you helping?  You may feel like you’re sacrificing, but what are you sacrificing and who are you doing it for are two very important questions to ask yourself on a regular basis so that you don’t wake up one day and realize that you began sacrificing for someone and after awhile it either turned into merely a mindless habit that is no longer necessary or even worse, something that is actually damaging the person you started out trying to help (and they adopt captain Hook as their father).  The point is there is only so much you can sacrifice of yourself before you start to sacrifice the good that you are actually intending to do.

Just please, please don’t settle for something that will suck you dry and spit you out dead, before you even ask if there’s another way.  Don’t permanently sacrifice everything that makes you who you are… everything that you were made to be and all the ways you were made to live… all in the name of sacrificing for others.  If you yourself are drowning, how can you teach your kid to swim so he’ll make it to the shore?

You are not much good to anyone if you are dying on the inside.  

Please, wake yourself up and look at the world around you.  Opportunities, adventures, and chances for you to benefit the world in ways that only you can, are ALL passing you by as you wallow in self-pity or pretend like you don’t notice that there’s an entire world going on outside of your normal day to day habits that consume and overwhelm you all by themselves.

Wake up.  Do something.  Don’t settle in for some sort of penance.  Don’t play the martyr.  I know you have a family, you have things or people to sacrifice for.  But what are your sacrifices getting them?  What do they really need?  These are the questions you need to be asking.

I’m guessing what your family needs most is a passionate person who can extend to them love, energy, and life lessons about the world…

… while most of the other adults around you are spending their time either in a numb haze or a stress induced stupor.  Be discontent with mediocre, with a hum drum life, with a robot existence…. ask questions, challenge norms, take risks… do SOMETHING!

Be discontent for the sake of the people you love.

Join us all in this quest for The Rare Existence… you need this because they need you.

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.