Take A Minute To Smell The Roses

I have been pushing myself hard throughout the last three to four years, and when I say “hard”, I’m referring to running and helping run multiple small businesses, while competing in international Taekwon-do competitions, and trying to have some sort of a social life, all at the same time.

Naturally I am a laid-back guy. My personality tends towards hanging out, cracking jokes, and conversation, and only through being pushed by dad,  years of self-directed discipline, and experience have I learned the benefits of getting shit done, and staying active. Though I began to notice a shift in my personality as engaged more with the entrepreneurial life-style. While I was moving into the entrepreneurial and small business space, I began to believe I wasn’t so laid-back after all.  I would frequently get angry towards my business partner, and lose my cool when dealing with contractor’s mistakes and unreasonable customer complaints.

While this was happening, I failed to appreciate how much stress my body and mind were under: the drastic rise in heart rate when difficult customers called(multiple times a day), my face flushed and mind racing while solving problems and driving routes simultaneously, my mind completely fatigued after working fifteen hours to solve problems, train new drivers, work on another business, then force myself into the gym. My lifestyle was grinding me into the ground. This “work-life balance” had me in its grip a little too consistently from 2015 – 2018, then I made the move to get out of one business and focus on another.

For the last few months I have moved on from the most stressful business, and focused on my online business, which is all me, and very little stress comparatively. Since transitioning I’ve learned how redlining my system totally changed me. I thought that maybe I wasn’t capable of dealing with stress and uncertainty, I thought I was too weak, I might have been at times. However, I think the biggest problem was the chronic high-level physical, and mental stress, combined with low amounts sleep and recovery. I would sleep four to five hours a night, and that was frequently broken up into two naps.

Since focusing on my online business, I have seen my personality come back. I’m more jovial, and outgoing. I’m also better at dealing with bullshit problems by acknowledging them as bullshit, such as benign family drama. Whereas I used to get overly analytical and emotional over trivial matters, I am now better able to shift my perspective, and realize when things aren’t important. My ability to discern the bullshit has also been bolstered by listening and reading Seneca’s Letters, where he encourages the reader and practitioner of philosophy to think about death to better prepare for death, and live a better life.

I’m focusing on this now because of  Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. While listening to the audio version, he discusses the nature of complaining, and how one should not complain when engaging in tasks, as it’s a dishonorable way to act. This go me thinking about my own struggles and how under chronic levels of stress I would often complain. Then I remembered what I learned after reading and listening to Anti Fragile by Nassim Taleb. The human body functions well under variability and stress( up to a point), given that there is time to recover. In this case, the body will recover stronger than it was before. This can also be said for mental stress as well: when you experience random, but not chronic foreseen events, you are forced to adapt and overcome. As long as the stress does not kill you, and you have time to recover, you should benefit in the long-term. I realized that my over-reactions, negative mood, and high anxiety  were not necessarily a result of inherent weakness, but likely caused by chronic high-level stress without sufficient time to recover.

If my situation sounds familiar to you: you’re over worked, not sleeping enough, your mind is racing into the future, you feel you are spiraling into insanity, then I suggest taking a small break from your ambition (make sure you can feed yourself and family), and evaluate your priorities. Be thankful for what you have, as I am re-learning to do, and set noble goals. I can’t spell out what a noble goal is, but I believe it something you would be proud to pursue if you died tomorrow, at least that’s how I’m visualizing it. For me, the highest priorities are freedom, meaningful relationships, and health. I’m currently working to ensure my financial ambitions are subservient to these priorities.

Worry Less, You Might Die Tomorrow

Recently I have been captivated by the idea that I could die tomorrow. I came across this  potent thought while listening to an audio rendition of Senecas letters, which are described as a practical, philosophical guide to living. In his writings, he discusses the idea of death, and that we should meditate on our deaths. By thinking about our deaths, we can reduce our fear and anxiety about death, and the future. Seneca juxtaposes his meditation of death  with the possibility that death can strike at any moment for a myriad of reasons unknown to us.

As someone who has dealt with a formidable amount of anxiety throughout the last few years, I found meditating on my death liberating. My anxieties have primarily been derived from worrying about the future: I worry about financial success, dating, my health, and the health of some close family and friends. However, after reading, listening to, and embracing the idea that death could be immanent, I shifted my perspective. Instead of intensely worrying about future mistakes and problems, I am attempting to concern myself with things that I would find worthy of doing or pursuing if I was to die the next day. I am doing more things I want to try, such as writing this blog, and working on my podcast(Taylor Radio).

Another byproduct of  meditating on death has been to enjoy the activities I engage in, because tomorrow I could lose my ability to do them. I could lose my ability to walk, see, or worse. This mindset shift has compelled me to talk with women in settings I was too cautious about previously, such as the gym. Before I approach someone I’m interested in and I get that nervous feeling, the thought of my certain yet unpredictable death buries the fear of rejection. This has drastically improved my mood, and I have made additional friends in the process.

While, meditating on death has pushed me to engage with my present more, I still believe it’s important to plan and prepare for the future, I am just worrying about it less. The future is opaque, us humans are incapable of knowing what lies ahead, or if anything does, so we can’t spend time and energy agonizing over future possibilities. Instead we should take care of business, and prepare for possible problems. For example, if you are nervous about the stock market, then take action to protect yourself, make a play, or stop thinking about. If you are nervous about losing a job make sure you have back-up savings, a resume that is ready-to-go, or another income stream. However, walking in and out of your job every day stressing about the possibility of losing your job is not going to effect the outcome of keeping or losing the job. The last point is critical, because worrying does not impact outcome, only action does. So if you’re worried about a potential problem, then do what is in your power today to prepare, but that is all that can be done.