Don’t Say You Don’t Have Time

What if you’re a recent grad with a crummy job (or 2) crushed under a massive boulder of student loan debt.

What if you’re a single parent on the gerbil wheel of job, kids, daycare, shopping, laundry, Dr. visits, round and round.

What if every waking hour is consumed with survival concerns. Fuck the ukulele. No room for that. You gotta sleep.

How are you going to fit a self-designed project into this kind of scenario?

Do an honest time audit.

Everyone I’ve ever met, including myself, who has ever said, “I have no time,” is lying.

If you watch tv, you have time. If you play on social media, you have time. If you play video games, you have time.

But wait, you say, I need that kind of mindless downtime. I’m exhausted at the end of my survival-driven life. The only thing I’m capable of is my admittedly mind-numbing addiction to Facebook. Or Netflix. Or whatever.

Okay. But what about the one-inch dash? You know, that line on your headstone between the day you enter this life and the day you expire?

What if you get to the end of that dash and you never did anything? Or anything that really mattered, or expressed who you really were?

You have an obligation, by the sheer odds of being born, to express yourself authentically.

You have an obligation to uncover some little talent or uniqueness and express the hell out of it. You have an obligation to participate and contribute to the hive. Bring something to the table, dude. Anything. Preferably your thing.

If the only thing you do in the one-inch dash of  your life is survive it, you only get one single point. It’s like the 200 points you get for just taking the SAT.

That’s not enough.

If you’re always working, look for ways of expressing yourself at work. Can you find a project there that you care about? Make it happen.

If you need your computer down-time after work, use it to research the project that if you did have the time, you would do. Dream of being a successful blogger? Read successful blogs and figure out the secrets.

Use little pieces of time you find lying around to daydream and take baby steps.  Find what you can do in a half-hour and do it. Let go of one minor mindless addiction and practice your Spanish.

Listen to podcasts during meal-prep and clean-up.

Use drive time to listen to audio books.

Find some minutes every day to express yourself authentically. It’s a kick. It’s life affirming and enlivening. It will make you happy. It will make other people happy. Do it. Live your dash before it ends.

Picking a Project

Before I talk about picking a project I want to say one thing:

This process takes time.

It takes time to build a Project-Driven Life. And it might take even longer if you spend every waking hour working on somebody else’s project.

Most people work on somebody else’s project. Any company who pays you, pays you to move its project forward.  If you’re happy at your job it’s because your skill set and values align with your company’s project.

If this is you, you’re lucky. High-five.

But most people aren’t big fans of the projects they work on at work. Or, they’re fans of a teensy little part of it, but they think the rest is bullshit.

And by “bullshit” I mean out of alignment with what they truly believe and/or stand for.

If this is you, you really need a personally-designed project on the side.

Why?

So you can live in integrity. So you can have at least a small shot at maximizing your full human potential before you croak.

So now it’s time to design yourself a cool project.

Here are the Rules:

1. Duration.Your project has to have a start and an end date.

2. The Goal.You have to state, up-front, what counts as “finished.”

3. Excitement. You must feel excited about the goal of your project.

A Project differs from a Streak in that you never know when a streak will end, but you always know when a project is done.

A streak is a game. A project has a mission.

A streak is how long you can persist. A project is persistence toward a goal.

When you know what kind of stuff you love and where to find it, and when you’ve tested your persistence by building long streaks of doing something every day without a miss, and when you know what you value and stand for:

It’s GO time.

Possible Projects

Here’s a list of possible projects to give you some ideas.

Learn a new language

Transition to a totally different diet: Go Vegan, or Vegetarian, or Raw, or Paleo

Train for something: a marathon, half- marathon

Write a book

Learn a musical instrument

Learn a martial art

Train your dog for an obedience or agility competition

Learn chess

Learn a new sport. Ultimate Frisbee?  Rock climbing? Kayaking?

Learn how to code

Start a blog

Build a website

Design a game

Plant a garden

Learn yoga

Learn photography

Learn to rumba

Scuba dive

Start a business

Hit the road for a year in an RV

Body build

Send 1 thank -you note a day for a year.

Read 50 books this year.

Some projects have longer timelines that others. For your first project, I’d pick something you could finish in a few months.

Let’s take an example.

Consider a project like: “Learn to Play an Instrument.” Let’s set up a scenario according to the rules.

Start with Rule #3: Excitement about the project.

You are really stoked to learn the ukulele. You went out and bought one, but it’s been sitting in the corner, untouched, since you bought it. Now you’re going to commit time to learn it. It’s going to be your NEW PROJECT. So great .

Now Rule # 2: The Goal: What will you count as done?

When you can play the song, “Over the Rainbow.”

Rule #1: Duration. You’ve watched an instructional YouTube, and looked at the chord sheet, and you really think you can nail this song if you practice consistently for 2 months.

So, 2 months from today (you circle a date on your calendar here) you will play Over the Rainbow totally decently.

Now your project is launched. This is your first project in your new project-driven life.

Congrats.

Tomorrow: Overcoming Obstacles

Getting High

I guess it’s a generational thing. I like to get high. I am always on the lookout for anything that takes me out of ordinary reality, ordinary time.

Today, I did a lot of deliberately heavy breathing, which in yoga-speak is called pranyama. I forced air into and out of my nose at a blistering pace for over 2 minutes.

Then I exhaled every scrap of air from my lungs in a big vomit of breath, and held that air out until I thought I was going to pass out.

At the precise moment I thought I would faint, I sucked in a death-denying gulp of breath just in time. I held it inside my lungs until the point of near explosion.

Then I let go.

I floated free of time for the next 20 minutes.

Scary roller-coasters have the same effect on me: I get off and don’t know where I am in space or time.

I can also get sucked down the intellectual rabbit hole through reading and constructing complicated word-things.

I love these “high” states. I love feeling free and unshackled from time.  And it is such a relief to be done with  my complicated little personality and its neurotic quirks for awhile.

So what does this have to do with the Project-Driven Life?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.

But soon you’ll be ready to come up with your first Project.

You’re ready now, actually. If you’ve done all the exercises, and have tended a streak for a month or longer,  you now have a pretty good idea who you are, what you stand for, and what you like to do.

From your streak, you’ve proven to yourself that you have the chops to persist, even when the thing that was so sparkly to begin with, is now stale.

The best moments of our lives always come when we’re  pushed to our limits.

The best moments of our lives come when we’re high; when we’re in that state Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.

Tomorrow I’ll explain more about how to select a good Project, one that has a chance to produce Flow for you, to get you high.

How To Write Your Personal Manifesto

What is a Personal Manifesto?

A Personal Manifesto is list of what you believe and value. It’s not necessarily who you are now, or how you live your life now.

But it is your line in the sand. It’s the definitive statement of what you stand for, what you believe, and where you refuse to compromise.

It doesn’t have to be long. The shorter the better. Maybe 10 things.

Your Manifesto is the place where you say: Here is a written list of the qualities I value in people and the world. This is the kind of person I wish to become. I may not be there yet, but this is what I’m aiming for. 

How to Write Your Personal Manifesto.

Take out your notebook. The same one you’re keeping your Things I Love and Things I Hate lists and your Piles.

Give yourself an hour and scribble down some answers to the following questions:

1. Who do I admire?

2. What do I admire in the people I admire?

3. What do I admire in the marketplace as a consumer of goods and services?

4. What 1 or 2 qualities do I have that I wish my children, friends, or colleagues had?

5. How do I feel when I feel seen?

6. What makes me feel safe, secure and appreciated?

7. How do I want to show up in the world; how do I want to be seen?

8. How do I want to express?

9. How do I want to be known?

10. What do I want to be known for?

11. What would be the best thing someone could say about me in a eulogy?

List out all the qualities you admire in other people. Think back to a time when you felt seen and appreciated and remember what that felt like. Write it all down.

What kind of reputation do you want to have? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

After you finish these questions, you will know a lot about who you are and what you stand for for.

Now look at your answers to these questions and pick out the qualities you want to emulate.

For example, say your answer to question number 3, “What do I value in the marketplace?” was, “I value reliability and courtesy.”

You might then make these qualities part of your Manifesto if you really feel strongly about them.

Be reliable

Be courteous

What if you answered Number 10 with, “I want to be known as someone who is open-minded and interested in lots of things.”

You could then add,

Be open-minded

Be interested

to your Manifesto.

These statements don’t have to be long. In fact, the shorter the better. And there don’t have to be tons of them. Maybe only 10 things.

Because your Manifesto is describing the way you want to be, not necessarily who you are yet, try to put the word “Be”  at the beginning of each item. Pretend you’re pep-talking yourself.

“Kath, be patient,” or, “I want to be patient.”

Make those statements into Manifesto statements by just taking the words, “I want to” out.

Be patient.

Here is my Manifesto.

Be human

Be calm

Be mindful

Make conscious choices

Seek flow

Extend your abilities

Engage with the world

Be kind

Express gratitude

Risk vulnerability

Restore yourself

You’ll notice that mine don’t all start with  “Be,” but they all start with a verb, or an action word like: make, seek, extend, engage, express, risk.

You’ll also note that each one is really SHORT. No full sentences. No details. This is really important because the shorter you make these statements, the easier they’ll be to remember.

You want each thing on your list to remind you to do something.

You want each thing to trigger an action.

It’s called a Manifesto because it’s what you want to manifest; it’s how you want to show up in the world.

Your Personal Manifesto is series of commands to yourself. It’s you telling yourself, reminding yourself, how you want to be.

Then Hang It Up

It’s really important to post this Manifesto somewhere in your house.

Why?

Because if you forget who you are, you can instantly refresh your memory. We all forget who we are constantly. We all make mistakes constantly because we are constantly forgetting what we believe and what we stand for. That’s why it’s so important to have this stuff written down and posted somewhere.

Also, if it’s posted in your house and you live with others, they’ll be able to read it too, and know who you are, what you stand for, and who you are striving to be.

Then, when you get into an argument, you can just say, “Refer to number 3 on my Manifesto” and save yourself a lot of explaining.

They might challenge you on it, or even call you on your shit, but that’s good.  Whenever you have to defend it, it becomes stronger.

Also: It’s very good to have people around who point out when they see you falling out of integrity. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but it keeps you honest in a good way. And if you  have children, it’s especially good for them to know what you stand for. Clarity breeds understanding and peace in the home.

If you are comfortable with it, it would also be good to hang a copy of your Manifesto where you work. Put a framed copy on your desk. It will act as a subtle reminder to you of who you are, especially if you tend to fall out of integrity at work.

My Manifesto is hanging in my dining room at home and at my yoga studio. (I also have printed it in black marker on my yoga mat!)

The day I wrote it, I was on a mini-retreat in Ithaca, NY and had taken this picture with my iPhone of my tea cup on the windowsill of the place I was staying.

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Then I used the Over app to superimpose my Manifesto onto that photo.

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When I showed the resulting picture to G, she really liked it and took it to Walmart and had it mounted. This is how It looks hanging in our dining room:

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I encourage you to do something like this. Write your Manifesto and hang it on the wall proudly.

Why Streak?

Why do anything, really?  Why go to work? Why have another beer? Why take a vacation? Why take a nap?

“Why?” is a great question because the answer to “Why?” will reveal what you believe.

Simon Sinek has a great YouTube and an equally wonderful book called Start With Why that I highly recommend. Check it out and start channeling your inner 5 year-old. Start noticing everything you do and ask, Why?

So, why streak?

Why commit to doing something every day, without a miss, for as long as you can?

Streaks boost your self-esteem. As your streak grows, you’ll become justifiably proud of yourself. A long streak is a testament to having persisted even when you didn’t feel like it. You have proven that you have self-command. You have overcome lethargy and laziness to honor a higher vision of yourself.

Streaks make you trustworthy. The easiest promises to break are the ones you make to yourself: “Who will know if I don’t meditate today?  These little no-stakes streak-promises test your word. Can you keep your word, even if it’s just to yourself and doesn’t affect anyone else? If you can, you know you can  trust yourself and therefore, others can trust you, too.

Streaks are mirrors.  They reveal you to yourself. How do you act when the going gets hard? What happens when you’re tempted to cheat? Do you make excuses or fudge the rules? Do you soldier on? As your streak gets longer and longer, you’ll start to see yourself and your tendencies pretty clearly. This is the beginning of self-knowledge. You’ll see where you’re strong and where you need work.

Streaks give you a solid place to stand. Even if you feel like a failure in every other area of your life, when you’re tending a long streak you can point to it and know that at least here, you’re solid. You know without question that in terms of honoring this commitment, you’re a person in good standing. You feel in integrity.  You can point to your 52-days-of-meditation-without-a-miss, for example, and say, “This is who I am. I am a person who can meditate 52 days in a row without a miss.”

Tomorrow: Writing Your Personal Manifesto

Streakers Do It Every Day

Okay boys and girls, quiz time.

What is a streak?

A: A streak is the distance you can run naked in a public place before you’re arrested.

Or,

B: A streak is the length of time you can do something before you miss.

Answer: Both.

I have never actually streaked in the “A” definition, though my roommate in college did; and like you I’ve giggled through TV highlights of random men jiggling their junk across major league playing fields.

I’m not really into public exhibitionism, but I love to streak in the “B” definition.

I like to set up personalized games for myself where I try to do something for as many days-in-a-row as I can.

To see if I can.

To test my persistence and stamina.

To see if I can keep a promise to myself.

It’s nothing more than a habit-building game. You pick a thing, you set the rules, and then you see how long you can last. It’s like when you were a kid and tried to see how long you could hold your breath under water.

Or how long you could jump rope without missing.

Or shoot foul shots.

You make-up the streak thing and you set the rules about what counts and what doesn’t. Every day? Or a certain number of days? For how long each time?

Here are My Rules for Streaking

1. It has to be something positive, something I add to my life, not subtract: “Take up meditation”, rather than “Give up sugar.”

2. It’s not a streak for me until I get to Day 10. Before Day 10 it’s more like a “healthy trend,” but on day 10, I’ve got some traction, and a streak is now underway.

3. I have to understand that it’s going to end. It’s not infinitely sustainable. If it does last more than a few years, it’s no longer a streak, it’s a practice, and I’ll talk about that later.

The definition of a streak is that it will end. Streaks end because streaks are games. But the most important moment in the life of a streak is the day it dies. You do not want to rush the end, but be prepared for some soul-searching when it does:

Are you disappointed? Then start over.

Are you relieved? It wasn’t your thing. Pick something else and start a new streak.

How to Pick a Thing to Streak

One of the best things to streak are body practices or a meditation practice. They are part of this system anyway, so why not make meditation, or yoga, or walking, your streak thing? Two birds, one stone-ish.

Another thing you could do is think of something you’ve been putting off or procrastinating about, and pick a baby step and do it every day.

One home cooked meal from scratch a week.

30 minutes of de-cluttering every day.

Take a calendar and mark every day you succeed. That’t the Jerry Seinfeld “Don’t Break The Chain” approach. He put big Xs on his calendar for every day he practiced his stand-up routine. After a while the Xs locked arms in solidarity on his calendar and hell if he was going to create a breach!

Tomorrow: Why to Streak.

I Wish You Were Happier

I am the happiest person I know and I wish you were happier, too.

What I have been writing about here for the past 5 days is little pieces of my little book called A Project-Driven Life.

It’s aimed at you if you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, or how to put your time and talents to good use.

This is what worked for me.

A lot of people I run into these days aren’t all that happy. Most of them are either lost, bored, or confused.

I look at these people and think: Geez, you’re pretty amazing. You have so much to offer. You’re so smart and clever, yet you seem to be totally under-utilizing your talents and gifts and kind of wasting your life.

 This makes me sad.

I want to tell them: Look, why don’t you throw yourself into an interesting project, something that lights you up, something that when I ask you how you’ve been, you can’t wait to tell me about, instead of saying, “Aw, not much, just getting old and fat. You know.”

Blah.

Life seems like a big pain in the ass to you, and the vibe you’re sending out just tripped my breaker. Your situation seems so avoidable and fix-able.

That’s why I am sharing my little system with you. I want you to be jazzed about something. I want you to have a little project going. I want you to stop being bored, and start feeling a little more amped about your life.

This system is what worked for me when I was lost and confused about what I should do with my life. Now I am never bored. Ever. I always have some crazy project going that jacks me up in the morning and focuses my energy.

I want that for you, too.

At first I thought I would make it into a little book and self-publish it, and I still might do that, but I felt weird and self-conscious about it.

Wasn’t I being a little arrogant? Who cares about me and my little projects? Maybe people are happy being bored. Who am I to say, “Here, try this. It worked for me.”?

So although I did a lot of work on it, wrote it all up and everything,  when it came time to putting it out there, I backed away.

Then I started this blogging streak. I haven’t missed a day posting here since February 18th which is almost 5 months now.

When you post every day, content starts to dry up really fast, unless, of course, you are writing what you had for lunch and taking a picture of it. But that’s lame.

Then it occurred to me that I could chunk out this little system of mine in consecutive blog posts and probably have something worthwhile to write about for at least a month, so that’s what you’ve been reading here since July 1st .

So, here’s where we are so far: I’ve talked about making and categorizing lists; learning how to meditate; and starting an exercise regimen, which I call “having a body practice” because I’m a yoga teacher and that’s how we talk.

Tomorrow I am going to talk about Streaking which is basically what I do with my whole life. I’m a professional Streaker.

But for tonight, I thought I’d take a moment and recap and explain what’s  going on here, and why.

I hope this is adding some value to your life, maybe even inspiring you a little.

Namaste.