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.

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. 🙂

“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!

The Ghosts of Injuries Past

Injuries occurred while young will often haunt you when you’re older. For example, I tore a muscle in my back snow skiing and still feel it in the form of weakness and pain in my back. So, try to avoid injuries! Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget. 

Two things to do: (1) prevent injuries NOW with strengthening and limbering exercises (look them up); (2) do rehab work soon after. Don’t wait until you’re too old!