Kill your microwave (mentality)

The microwave is a dangerous appliance.

The very concept is pretty disturbing when you think about. This little box creates waves of energy that heat my food, not by generating heat in the traditional sense, but by cooking it on the cellular level (I guess- I am no expert). This feels to me like a means to prepare food created by super-advanced alien life forms.

Despite these somewhat whimsical concerns(that don’t actually prevent me from using a microwave, make no mistake) it’s the mentality the microwave fosters, rather than the mechanics of the device, that endangers us.

Traditional wisdom held that if you want a delicious, warm meal you needed time. You had to plan it out in advance. You had to put in time preparing it. You had to leave time to actually cook it (with heat, not alien technology).

The microwave changes that. The microwave teaches us that you can get a warm meal in two minutes or less. The microwave encourages us to decide what we want to eat minutes before we are going to eat it.

But the best things in life are not instant- they are not the result of impulse. The best things in life- the greatest successes, the most worthwhile dreams- require that you marinate them in perseverance for years. YEARS.

Microwave dinners will satisfy your appetite. They just tend to be less healthy, less tasty, and ultimately less fulfilling than a meal prepared the old fashion way.

Don’t make microwave goals. Don’t live a microwave life. The better meal is worth the wait.

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The Importance of Resolve: 3 Tips for Lasting Change

It is a new year, a time for reflection and resolve. It is a time to celebrate the road behind, and to plot the course ahead. 

Such action should not be taken lightly. Though purely psychological, the coming of the new year presents a natural reset button. It allows us to put frustrations and discouragements aside and to refocus our vision. 

At the same time, we have all seen resolutions fail utterly. In many ways, a failed resolution is more harmful than never having one at all. When we set goals we make contracts with ourselves, and when we break one of those contracts we lose confidence in our own capability- we tarnish our reputation in our own eyes. Losing confidence in your self will lead to all types of deadly cycles- lowered expectations, pessimism, fatalism, and the worst of them all, apathy.

So we should take advantage of a new year, but we should do so with clarity and conviction. We should be ready to follow-through on what we say, which means we weigh our own goals and promises to ourselves carefully.

So here are three tips for choosing resolutions that actually have the power to change you.

  1. Start with the big picture. It is easy to start with the details- what would I like to change about myself? What really annoyed me this year that I would like to be different next year? Little picture resolutions are difficult to follow-through on when things get tough. I recommend asking yourself the big, all-important questions first- Who do I want to be? What do I want out of life? What is most valuable to me? Then, with the big stuff in mind, figure out what specific goals you want to make this year that will move you in the direction you want to go. 
  2. Articulate your resolution in a tangible way that inspires you. Vague resolutions are a waste of breath. Things like “I want to get in shape”, “I want to write more” or “I want to spend more time with my family” don’t move you to action. Your resolution should be obtainable, yet lofty enough to call forth sacrifice. Tangible yet inspiring goals (I want to write a novel, I want to lose 20 pounds) are powerful. You can visualize a tangible goal in a way you can’t picture a vague one, and when you lose steam come February you are going to need to do a lot of visualizing if you want to keep moving.
  3. Habits are the best kind of change. In the end, all our resolutions are meaningless if they don’t result in changing our habits. If we lose 20 pounds in a super-intense whirlwind diet, but our habits remain the same, then the change won’t stick. That being said, your resolutions should involve a degree of patience. Don’t dream about quick fixes. Whatever it is you want, if it is worth wanting at all, is going to take a long time. So keep your goals firmly placed before you, but remember that slow and steady win the race. Your personal transformation is ultimately more valuable than fulfilling the goal that catalyzes it. 

 So, does anyone out there have examples from past resolutions (successes or failures) that the rest of us might find helpful? Please share them!

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One life

Be courageous. Shake up your routine. Compliment generously. Be kind to everyone. Live with passion. Exercise. Create space for creativity. Spend time with people who inspire you. Wake up when you intend to. Stop complaining. Forgive extravagantly. Celebrate energetically. Believe boldly. Dance and sing as much as possible.

You were given one life. One blank page. One empty canvas. One brief, precious, miraculous shot at leaving a mark on the world. Let’s have no holding back. Let’s avoid any half-hearted efforts. Let’s give it all we got.

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What motivates you?

So I have been thinking recently about the elements that create a powerful drive, or motivation, in a person. With some help from my colleague Ryan, here is what I’ve come up with so far.

The highest form of drive combines three necessary ingredients- desire, meaning, and generosity. In other words, if you want to live a highly motivated life (which I strongly recommend) you need to answer the following three questions:

1) What do you want most out of life? (desire)

2) Why do you want it? (meaning)

3) For whose benefit do you want it? (generosity)

In fact, I believe the more often you ponder these questions, the more motivated you will be.

So, give me your feedback. Do these questions resonate with you? What elements or questions would you add to cultivate a deeper passion for life?

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This weekend my daughter made a bad choice (not the first time ever, I admit). As a direct result of this choice, we had to leave the scenic locale where our family was enjoying a wonderful morning and return home. She was simultaneously heartbroken and outraged.

During one of her calmer moments, I drew her close and matter-of-factly explained that “life is more fun when you make good choices.” Sound advice for a three year-old that is equally true for grown-ups.

There is a common misconception that so often deceives us. I call it the “Carpe Diem Delusion.” It’s the idea that only by embracing our most immediate desires and throwing responsibility to the wind will we find satisfaction and happiness. It is an idea our largely materialistic pop-culture, which economically speaking relies heavily on the impuslivity of the consumer, does everything in its power to reinforce. Though it galavants as some sort of ancient wisdom, the phrase “carpe diem” has been used to justify some of the worst choices ever made.

Now, before I come off as the most dismal, rigid human being of all time, I want to communicate that I am actually a spontaneous, fun-loving person by nature. I am of the philosophy that believes the best moments of life are the one’s you don’t plan, the one’s that come upon you and take you by surprise. I am as far from type-A as one can be and still remain functional in the modern world.

And yet I realize that life is best enjoyed when one embraces their responsibilities and makes good choices. The type of fun you have skipping a college class is fleeting. The type of fun you have celebrating your graduation is of a greater and more lasting nature entirely.

So have fun. Seize the day. Just know that all choices have consequences, and that embracing responsibility and faithfulness today means profound peace and satisfaction tomorrow, no matter how old you may be.

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What it is

In my last post I claimed that fear is our great adversary- a debilitating force that we must face and overcome if we are to be all we are meant to be.

When scary things happen, or come close to happening, fear is always right there with us trying to take the reins. It is up to us to never give it control.

After all, does fear have any good intention toward you? Let’s call fear what it is.

Fear is a liar. Fear exaggerates every situation into a doomsday scenario. Fear tries to convince us that the unknown is threatening, that risk is treacherous, that if you stand out too much people will mock and laugh at you and that for some reason that is really important. Fear whispers in your ear that there is danger on every dark street, disaster behind every unexpected change, and a monster underneath every bed.

Fear is a thief. Fear steals your joy and leaves you with anxiety. Steals your potential and leaves you with insecurity. Steals your dreams and leaves you with predictability. Steals your faith and leaves you with doubt. Steals your boldness and leaves you with hesitancy.

Fear is selfish. It is hard to be thoughtful when you are afraid. It is difficult to be kind. It is impossible to be generous. Fear turns your attention inward and tells you that the only way to survive is to think obssessively about yourself and all the awful things that possibly could happen in your life.

So, now that we have displayed fear as the selfish, lying thief that it is, do you really want to let it influence your life? Even for a moment?

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So afraid

I live in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s a fantastic city full of the most amazing variety of wonderful people. The sun rises over the mountains and sets over the sea, and the city life is as diverse as the landscape.

Sadly, it’s also a city that has endured decades of violence, murder, and injustice. Take this weekend, for example. While on a bus heading home Friday afternoon I heard word that a massive car bomb had ripped open a residential street in a bustling, commercial neighborhood. It turned out to be an assassination, and the target’s funeral on Sunday afternoon quickly evolved into a mob getting tear gassed as they charged the Parliament building. Sunday night closed the weekend out appropriately- gun fights and RPG explosions kept have the city awake all night. The violence has continued sporadically into the week, and even as I write this I can hear machine guns firing in the distance.

You might want to ask me what many people here ask me: aren’t you scared to live in Lebanon?

Let me tell you a secret.

Whether you live in Beirut or in a gated community in suburban America, fear will find you. Fear is not the variable, not the sign that something has gone wrong with our perfect lives. Rather it is the constant. It is the great enemy of every person in every place and every age. The only variable, the only thing we have power to change, is what we do with it. We cannot run from it. We cannot hide from it. We cannot build walls high enough to keep it out, or purchase dogs big enough to run it off. Fear will find us in the quiet of our home, while we are warm underneath the sheets. The fear is not lurking out there somewhere in the big bad world. It is inside our hearts.

Fear will enslave you. It will make you less than you were meant to be. Fear makes us selfish. It makes us violent. It makes us cruel.

And so face it we must. We must rise above it. We must be set free.

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