Friday, December 31, 2010

27 lessons from 27 years, Part III (16 - 1)

16 - Promises are meant to be kept. 
       What’s the good of your word if you don’t keep it. This year has been an absolute revelation in terms of my own character flaws. Perhaps the most obvious, but probably the least egregious example has been my tardiness. Danielle pointed out how my constant tardiness reflected my list of priorities whether I consciously acknowledged that list or not -- a painful but necessary lesson. I’ve been trying to work on timeliness but I’m still far from a satisfactory level. Half of life is showing up. If I can’t even get that down, what hope do I have of the other half?

15 - Your ambitions should be ambitious.
        I do an excellent job of hiding thoughts from myself. After I completed my first triathlon I was happy to be sure, but I felt a strange disappointment. That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I thought I’d be more broken down, more on death’s door. I pushed as hard as I could at the end of the race, once I hit Central Park, but considering how quickly I recovered I kept thinking to myself “I could have made my big push sooner.” This year I did the Half Ironman in Syracuse and I’ve never lived a day with such intense emotions as I did that day. Fear. Despair. Desperation. Hope. Triumph. Elation. Gratitude. I felt them all, I emptied my soul out that day. I’m glad I met a new friend on the run and old friends found me at the finish line. But the last few weeks I’ve been trying to remember how much my body hurt that day. I can’t recall anything of my IT Band pinched between my knees nor vomiting on myself in the swim, or my heart rate flying through the roof prematurely on the bike. I can’t viscerally remember a single one of those facts. Again I feel a dissatisfaction with one of the happiest days in my life. I can do that faster. I can go even further. Ambition. A pastor who has always struck me as flamboyant and full of hot air actually gave me one of my most cherished nuggets of wisdom, a Chinese proverb: your life is a boat rowing upstream. You’re going forward or going back. There’s no staying still. 

14 - Your body remembers joy. Your body doesn’t remember pain.
        Remember that the next time you want to skip a workout and stay in bed.  See previous for details. 

13 - The 80/20 rule. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
        80% of your results come from 20% of your work. Take fitness for example. I’m extremely, extremely confident that you will be fit as you will ever *need* to be for the rigors of this modern world with a balanced diet and 2 half-hour walks every day. That’s ALL. Forget going to the gym for hours and hours lifting weights, running, swimming or sinking loads of dollars into gadgets and programs. Your workouts come for free and you’ll actually save money with your diet once you cut out fast food. You can stay mentally active into old age by doing sudoku’s and crosswords. 

12 - The 80/20 rule. The Devil’s in the details.
        20% of your work produces 80% of your results. But the difference between 80% and 100% is enormous. You can be fit with a good diet and walking but you won’t be able to do a triathlon, climb a mountain, fight a bear or crush an apple in your palm. You can stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia by eating fish, fruits and doing newspaper games. But you probably won’t write a great novel, play or sheet music if that’s all you ever do. Not a problem if those feats are meaningless to you. A big problem if those are your life goals. 

11 - 10% Inspiration. 90% Perspiration.
        As good as your plan is, as passionate as you may claim to be, as supportive as your friends and family may be, no one can do the work that is yours alone to do. You must work for your dreams, your goals. If you do not work, nothing will happen. And you will die never having lived, a stillborn soul. Your life is work. Your work is your life.

10 - Man was made to work.
        Musing upon Genesis, God’s first words to humanity were work orders. Go forth and cultivate the earth. Man was made to work. Humanity, born late on a Friday and the first thing he has to do is to clock in. I think our lives would be much improved if we had that same attitude. 

09 - Your Work might not be your job.
        And your job is not your Work. Every life should have a Magnum Opus, a great work for which they’ve given their whole life. Some have criticized my views and writing as a workaholics manifesto. In some sense, it is. Work is better than indolence. But they misunderstand me. I don’t really care too much about money, prestige, recognition or compensation. Your compensation is joy. That’s better than money. You can’t buy joy. You can buy marshmallows which might make you happy but they’ll rot your teeth and make you fat. And then you’ll be sad again. You may have to get a job, several jobs, in order to fund your Work but you must give your all to your Work. Your Work may be your family, or something that people with small visions and shriveled hearts may demean as a hobby, but you have to give your all for it. Because...

08 - Your Work is your joy.
        Every soul owes it to themselves to question the conventional wisdom that work is a nasty, miserable odious chore that you have to suffer through in order to survive. Question it! Every year I find myself working much more than I have in previous years and every year I find myself having a deeper and deeper gratitude for the life I lead. Not a coincidence at all. 

07 - Your Joy is your destiny.
        Want to know what you’re meant to live for? Your joy. The glory of God is a human being fully alive. Happiness defies reasoning. Axiomatic in nature, how would you argue that happiness is better than sadness? It just is. If you don’t understand the premise, then there’s no argument based on any epistemology that can convince you. Happiness is. Joy is. Every argument that requires the subordination of joy to any other principle or cause immediately comes under suspicion. And rightfully so! Follow your joy. Find your destiny.

06 - Caffeine is a hell of a drug.
        I fought a hard battle with caffeine addiction and depression this year. Just because it’s typically caused by a beverage that most people, even kids, drink on a daily basis, is no reason to discount the potential for wrecking your life.

05 - No improvement without recovery.
        Forsake your sleep, forsake your food and let all your work go to waste. You can train like a demon or like you have a demon but if you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’ll hardly see any gains. Your body knows what to do. It’s kept you alive your whole life. It’s on your side. Are you on your body’s side? What’s your relationship to your body? Do you treat it like a jerkass Asian parent, always demanding without listening? If you have, why should you wonder at your own body’s rebellion against your tyranny?

04 - Protein.
        15 grams at a time. A few hours apart. You don’t really need much more than that unless you’re bodybuilding.

03 - Water.
        Drink a lot. Drink often.

02 - Air.
        Breathe deeply. Breathe regularly.

01 - You’re never done.

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