Heed Your Pain!

Pain, whether physical or emotional, is a sign that something needs attention. Heed your pain — try to find its cause — especially if it repeats itself later on.

Does your neck hurt? Is it because you are always looking down at your smart phone screen? If so, better change the way you view your phone, or you’re looking at degenerative spine issues in your future (which isn’t that far away!).

Do you often feel depressed or angry? Why? Though sometimes the causes are complex and difficult to discern, the quality of your whole life depends on finding answers – even trying itself helps, psychologically.

Growing up, I didn’t experience strong emotions, which makes it hard to be happy. I vowed to change, and did. It has taken decades, but it’s worth it.

Physical and psychological change begins with an act of will – it won’t happen by itself. Seek help if you must. Or even if you mustn’t! Your life is on the line.

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Stretch Yourself (Say, “yes!”)

For some of us (me), the natural tendency is to say “no” to new opportunities, often because we’re timid or fear failure. This is a BIG mistake (if it is a habit). Saying “no” only reinforces that we are “failures,” hurting our self-esteem. In contrast, saying “yes” provides at least two benefits: (1) it helps us learn new skills, abilities, etc.; and, (2) it boosts our confidence to stretch ourselves more. It’s a virtuous circle, often. Besides, it makes life more fun. Even when we actually “fail” at the new. “Better to have loved and lost. . . ” To try is to love life.

Example: My dad said “yes” when he was asked to be his fraternity’s president, even though he had no leadership experience. Yada, yada, yada, he later won the first and only “Mr. Fridley” award for being one of the lead farm advisors in California. (Think “Green Acres.”)

Caveat: This isn’t a principle, just a rule of thumb. Saying “yes” to heroin would be stupid in almost all circumstances. Use your brain, check the facts, be rational (as should go without saying).

Be First-handed, Not Fist-handed

This may be the most important piece of advice, because it affects all others.

Being first-handed means observing reality with your own eyes/brain, forming your own judgments, and acting on them with integrity. It is a primary orientation toward reality, not other people. Put negatively, it means not accepting ideas passively or on the authority of others. This is difficult to do consistently.

For example, you hear someone claim that “97% of all scientists accept that CO2 is causing catastrophic global warming.”Even if true (it’s not), you do not accept its truth based on the authority of the scientists.  (And you do not accept my claim passively, either.) You go look at the observation-based evidence, including the credibility of the scientists who claim knowledge.

(The “fist-handed” part is half in jest, but those who are second-handed tend to resort to the fist or allow it passively. For example, those whose authority is God or The People [the Volk] or The Environment, like ISIS, Hitler, and Al Gore.)

Posture, Shmoshture

I hated hearing about “having good posture” when I was a kid. Problem is, good posture becomes very important in later years, in at least two areas: physical and spiritual health.

Physically, bad posture can lead to all sorts of issues, especially when you hit about 50. Neck pain, back pain, hip arthritis, knee problems, who knows what else. YOU DON’T WANT THESE!

Spiritually or psychologically, bad posture can reflect poor self-esteem and even help perpetuate it in oneself (and affect the way others see you). If you think your posture is poor, think about whether it reflects how you view yourself. If it does, working on that issue is the fundamental, but even faking self-esteem through posture can help. Fake it ’till you make it!

What constitutes good posture? You probably have a good idea by now, but look it up! (Thank God for the Internet!) Hint: If you look like a comma, with you back rounded and your head hanging forward, you need to work on your posture. Imagine a string is tied to the top of your head and your puppet-master, God, is pulling it up. 🙂

Give your eyeballs a break!

Hours of staring at the TV, computer screen, iPod, iPad, iX dries out and weakens your eyes (not to mention your brains). Good eye-replacement options aren’t going to be around for a long time, so try to make it a habit to look long-distance at least once every 30 minutes. Out a window into the natural light is good. Relax those close-vision muscles! Do some eye rolls! Breathe! (It’s hard to remember, so set a timer. Lots of apps for that, like 30/30.) . . . All right, I’m off to get an eye-massage.

“Follow your passion!”

Great advice, unless you’re among the multitudes whose “passion” is not readily apparent. One’s “passion” is not an intrinsic (inborn) characteristic that requires only “letting go.” No. You must actively find and develop it.

How? By searching! Try different things, occasionally invoking the “Risky Business” mantra (“What the F_ck!”). And, don’t give up on something too easily – give it a chance. “Passion” is not a mere interest. It is an interest cultivated through growing knowledge and mastery. (This is the story of most successful careers.)

For example, my father wanted to be a cowboy from a young age. He took this interest and developed it by, e.g., learning how to ride horses, working summers as an actual cowboy driving cattle from Colorado to Texas, obtaining his degree in animal husbandry. This pursuit ultimately culminated in a career as a livestock specialist. (As a boy, he went so far as to sleep with a stick between his knees with his ankles tied together to give himself bowed knees. Not recommended!)

Note: Playing hours of video games does not count as pursuing a passion unless you are a game developer!

“Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the F_ck'”

I don’t like vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity (cf. most popular movies these days), but this famous quote from “Risky Business” has a legitimate – even important – use. Especially for those of us who tend to be overly cautious or analytical (you know who you are!). Here’s the full quote:

Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the F_ck’, make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying “What the F_ck” brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”

This is not an excuse for illegality or immorality (as it was for Joel) or even a green light for gratuitous profanity. However, sometimes the phrase can provide the psychological push you need to get past your insecurities, fears and other inhibitions and to take beneficial, life-changing action. It can turn motivation from fear into motivation from conviction.

Bad use example: “I’ve never cliff dived before, but what the f_?!” <splat>
Better use example: “The idea of investing in this start-up scares me, but I’ve done the research, due diligence, etc., so what the f_?” <billionaire> 🙂