What an F-ed up year.
I can describe why but it doesn’t matter. We all have horrible moments.
It doesn’t matter how good life is. Bad stuff happens.
You can be healthy but homeless. You can be wealthy but sick. You can be in love but not have that love returned.
Life is a sentence of failures only briefly punctuated by successes. It’s how quickly we bounce back from failure and despair that ultimately determine our well-being, our success, and our freedom.
1. Don’t ask why
There is no “Why?” In the history of the world, nobody has ever answered truthfully to “Why did you do this?”
You can’t ask someone why they stole from a company. They won’t tell you. Or they will say they didn’t.
You can’t ask someone why they left you. Why they did X to betray you. Or Y to lie to you.
They will lie. They will accuse you. They will cry. They will say all sorts of things to throw the scent off their trail.
There is never a “Why.” There is seldom closure in life. Since the Big Bang, life is chaos.
As my 17 year old daughter somehow so eloquently put it to me the other day: “Humanity has to yield to nature’s hysteria.”
I asked her, did you just think of that? And I even googled later to make sure she really thought of it.
The other day I was walking around. I saw a place: SohoPhoto.
I walked in and there were some decent photos but the surprise was, as it often is, in the bathroom.
I walked in and there were a 1,000 photos of families and weddings. The sign above the toilet said all the photos were picked up from yard sales and hung up in the bathroom.
I know this is not “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but, for me, that is adventure to wander around and come across something like this. Oh, and then I went to the bathroom and DESTROYED it.
Technique: walk around. Anything with an open door that seems curious: walk in. This technique is amazing.
At the end of the day: did I eat well, move well, sleep well, CHECK. improve relationships, CHECK. write ten ideas a day, CHECK, think about things I’m grateful for. CHECK
If yes, then go to sleep knowing I did the best I could do. If no, then repeat until Yes.
4. Beat the sh!t out of someone
Just kidding. But I think about it a lot.
This has been maybe the most amazing thing in my life since last October. The fact that I have rediscovered friendship.
That sounds like a corny thing to say. I can’t believe how well my friends have helped pull me out of my grave.
Money doesn’t do it. Family often doesn’t do it (family often puts you in the grave). Jobs don’t do it.
I had one friend fly in from China to help me keep my life in order. I had another friend make me send photos of every meal to make sure I was eating. And on and on.
You don’t need a lot of friends and you don’t need them forever. But they work.
6. Throw everything out
This only worked for me. It might not work for anyone else.
And, to be honest, perhaps throwing everything out was more a response than a cure.
But I threw everything out: clothes, furniture, computers, diplomas, manuscripts of books I’ve written but never published, old photos of parents, coats, TVs, games, 1000s of comic books, and on and on. Maybe 80-100 garbage bags worth I either threw out, gave away, or donated.
People ask me: did this give you a sense of freedom?
Life never changes in a lightning bolt like that.
I just simply like it that way. I feel like I’ve disappeared in plain sight. There is no object that can define me.
7. Get help
I see a therapist. She’s maybe the smartest person I know. She’s so smart I thought she was Jewish but it turns out she isn’t.
She takes every situation I have and says, “Imagine if this were your daughter telling you this – what would you say to her?”
Or, “Imagine if someone treated you that way in a business deal. What would your response be?”
BAM! I can see things differently.
The only problem with therapy: it’s like you have this one disease that lasts forever.
So I try to be very tactical. This is my therapy strategy:
A) I have problem X
B) She’s seen problem X 1000 times
C) Find out from her what the average good response is to problem X
D) If I have no problem X, I don’t see her.
8. Take huge bowel movements every day
People always want to say things like: pray to God. Or: have faith in a universal power.
I get that. We all want to trust in The Force. Me too.
But that is hypothetical.
If you have a huge bowel movement every day you are IMMEDIATELY making your life better. If you can have more than one, even better.
Google what a good a bowel movement looks like. There’s a museum in Pittsburgh I once went to that showed the difference between a good one and a bad one. So now I check: good or bad?
Try it, don’t deny it.
9. Make mistakes
I’ve made mistakes this year. People mistakes. Maybe my writing suffered for a little bit. Maybe my work.
I don’t know. But you won’t be at 100% of your game after an injury. I had to give myself time to recover. Which I did.
I’m a pretty open, transparent person in my writing. But i only write about myself. I never write about others. I’ll write anything bad about myself. I don’t care.
Like one mistake I’ve made: I said “yes” to speak at a bunch of conferences and then I simply didn’t show up. I got too stressed to leave NY.
I asked Stephen Dubner, who I was doing a podcast with, why he thought I was too scared to travel.
He said, “Travel is stress. And you probably don’t want to add any more stress to your life so you think you can travel but at the last minute it probably physically feels overwhelming to you.”
Well…maybe. But it was bad that I would just cancel (or not even show up) at the last minute.
So I asked my therapist. She said, “Say ‘no’ right now to all the personal travel. But say ‘yes’ and start going to all the business-related travel.”
And so I did. And now my life is better. Curate your yes-es.
10. Do nothing
Sometimes you can’t fix a problem.
I’ve spent maybe at least 10% of my life trying to fix problems that have no solution.
A problem should be an arrow, not a stop sign.
Oh shoot, I have one more thing that was absolutely critical. Laugh every day no matter what. Watch YouTube or do whatever. Laugh.