Call to Action: To hell with Free Time!

 

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As adults, we say “free time” the way we said “recess” or “play time” when we were younger. All too often, we work 40-50 hours Monday-Friday to get to our “free time,” then sit on the couch for half of the day for one reason or another. We catch up on shows, relax (aka – nap), surf the web (aka – look at Instagram posts), or eat despite the fact that we ate something an hour and a half ago and say, “I might be hungry, but I might not be?”

I was this person, too, you know? When I had roommates, I remember staying in my room until 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. because the longer I stayed in there, the more embarrassing it would look when I finally came out to greet the world. I would say things about getting my resume together or being really sore from that workout I did yesterday (or was it the day before? Or was it last month?). I could spend a whole day in my house, not cook anything and just order food, then put on an Ohio State shirt and watch the 8:00 p.m. game until I went up to bed and lay awake until 3:00 a.m.

 

Free time.

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Thankfully, those days are behind me. I couldn’t sleep in past 8:30 a.m. if I wanted to and if I’ve been in my house for more than four straight hours, I start to go a little crazy (and I like my house!). What happened is my wife and I started making plans. We plan things out a month in advance. We buy concert tickets for shows six months down the road and we share calendars for workouts, happy hours, work schedules, even when we are going to give our dog a bath. We almost have to schedule “free time,” otherwise our days won’t allow us any time to breathe.

And it’s not just on weekends either. We plan time to work on our freelance businesses, schedule meetings with event coordinators for things we want to put into motion six months down the road. Of course, we plan couch time to smother our dog, but there are some nights he has to remind us to get him his walk (he does this by eating a little bathroom waste bin trash or moving our shoes from our closet).

So here’s where I ask you to self-reflect and look at what it is you do on the weekends or when you get off from work. Do you beeline to your couch and order pizza most nights, or do you have plans to do something productive with your free time? As Millennials, it’s easy for us to say that something isn’t worth our time, but we are devaluing our time by wasting it every day. I’m all for “lets do it more efficiently,” but when it comes to going from a computer screen at work to a TV screen at home, we have to change how we are doing things.

So, it’s OK to start small, but at least START. Make “free time” a thing where you get free yourself from what has been comfortable to this point, and challenge yourself to do something new. Who knows, you might start to enjoy it!

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10 Things Things Should Be

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Think about the thing you love in this world more than anything else. Maybe that’s your parents or your S.O., or maybe it’s your job. Maybe you love playing online video games, or maybe you get your rocks off by climbing rocks. Whatever your thing is, think about it for a second. Think about how you feel when you’re doing that thing or talking to that person. Don’t think about one specific time or conversation, but of that thing as a whole. Wouldn’t it be great if everything were like that thing in your life? Wouldn’t it be magical if you woke up, and everything you did felt like that thing you love?

Why isn’t that the case? Why do we wake up angry that it’s Monday, or stay up late watching TV because we don’t want to go to work the next day? Why do we avoid phone calls from friends because you know it’s going to be drama?

This blog is about figuring out things in your life that are worthwhile and meaningful, and figuring out how to make everything else in your life more like those things. Your things shouldn’t be cumbersome or something you avoid, they should be the things that bring you happiness and allow you to be the kind of you you were meant to be.

Here is a list of ten things things should be:

  1. Useful – Usefulness doesn’t mean something is a tool. Things can be useful by bringing out different sides of your personality, or helping you make something else better. Useful things make us productive, either directly or indirectly. If something isn’t useful in your life, why do you keep it around?  Is it comfortable?
  2. Inspiring – Inspiring doesn’t mean that you have to have an Epiphany any time you have a conversation. Inspiring means something has to make you think and to make you see something in a different light every now and then.
  3. Beautiful – Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes, and applies to things other than people too (believe it or not)! Beauty isn’t just a painting or a cover girl or a sunset. Beauty is having something personal that fills you with happiness. Beauty is something meaningful and speaks to you unlike anything else.
  4. Engaging – If something doesn’t hold your attention then why do you care about it? Everything doesn’t have to always have your full attention, but if something NEVER has your full attention, you can probably do without it.
  5. Memorable – The most important things we will have at the ends of our lives are memories, and the things we hold nearest to our hearts should be memories we have with the things that mean the most to us.
  6. Unique – Your things should be unique. Life isn’t an Ikea store where everything can be compartmentalized and organized and made to fit into tiny boxes in your brain. Your things, your BEST things, should be as unique as you are and mean something different to you than anyone else.
  7. Timeless – Things shouldn’t have expiration dates unless they can be eaten. Things should continue to be long after they’re gone. Think about the conversations you have had with people that stick in your mind; good, bad, or ugly they stick with you and are powerful. Make every conversation, and every THING in your life stick with you even if you are doing something else.
  8. Valuable – Don’t think of value as something that has a dollar sign attached to it. Value in the marketplace is different than value in our lives. What is it that your things allow you to do or allow you to be? Value means something will be equally or more important tomorrow than it is today.
  9. Consistent – Things should be consistent, reliable, and we should be able to count on things to be as they are when we need them the most. Consistency allows you to lean on something when times get hard, and know that you will get the most out of it when each and every time.
  10. Original – You don’t always have to do things other people do, and your relationships don’t have to be the way other people think they are supposed to be. Don’t ever be afraid to push the envelope, whether it’s challenging your husband or choosing which color paint to make your bedroom.

I think most people would agree to these 10 things things should be. You might have a few other ideas about what things should be, and feel free to apply it to this next idea.

Think about the things in your life. Think about the friendships, relationships, stuff you’ve accumulated over the years and keep at your home. Think about your hobbies, your job, and your weekend plans. Think about your TV shows, your books, the emails you haven’t sent and your Amazon shopping cart. How would you rate the things in your life? Of the ten most recent things you’ve thought about, how many of those fit into all of the “things” in the list above? How many of those things fit into half of the things on that list?

Think about your job or your marriage; are those things engaging and valuable? Are they consistent and inspiring? If they aren’t then what keeps you invested in those things? Does a paycheck allow you to make for a better life or does it hold you in a position you hate being in? Does coming home to someone you feel contempt toward justify some kind of need to share rent together?

The last thought I will leave you with is this: pretend you’re having a conversation with your eight-year-old self. Pretend you know everything about yourself at that age, but he knows nothing of what you’ve become or where you’re at in your adult life. Pretend he asked you if you’re happy with yourself. What would you say if he asked about your job or your friends or what you liked to do when you had free time. Would you lie to him or would you inspire him? Just because you didn’t become an astronaut doesn’t mean you’d disappoint yourself, but if you have to lie about the most important things in your life, do something to change that.

 

Why getting what you want matters

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Chances are, you are under the age of 35 if you’re reading this (unless we’re Facebook friends; Hi Mom!) and there is also a good chance you are still “trying to figure out what you want in life.” A lot of us have jobs we don’t love but allows us certain luxuries like car payments and the occasional pizza after a long night out. Chances are, there are a lot of things that you want that you can’t get with a bigger paycheck, and those are the things that really matter (and what this post is about!).

The first thing you have to do is ask yourself, “what do I want?” I hope your answer isn’t something like:

  1. Mansion
  2. Abs
  3. Parties with Jay & B

“Look, Beyonce. I don’t remember inviting you and it’s not that we don’t want to see you, but you’re over here ALL THE TIME.”

No, this is more of a things you should want out of life piece. This is more of a “how great would it be to wake up and make a cup of decent coffee before I got started getting ready for work?” kind of piece. This is more about personal freedoms and not being a slave to a paycheck and the ‘almighty dollar’ kind of piece.

Who is John Galt?

What you want matters. The biggest hurdle we have is believing those four little words. If you can accept this, then you’re ready for the second, and most important thing you’ll ever do for yourself.

Make it happen.

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My biggest hurdle (on more things than this TBH) was that I thought I needed a plan for everything before I could do something. There is no GPS in life. I thought I needed to hammer out exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it, but I never took my first step because I would be in a constant state of planning. One of the best things that I continue to learn from my wife is to just start something — just do something, and you realize that you’ll pick things up and figure them out along the way.

For the record, there are some times this doesn’t apply (furniture building, improv cooking, Insanity DVD buys), but for the most part, giving yourself a head start as you learn something along the way is a great motto in life.

What you want matters only if you’re determined enough to go and get it. Otherwise, wanting turns into wishing, and there’s a long line in the waiting room of people who are just hoping things fall to them. Be brave and go get what you want!

The Best Things about Being an Adult

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When I was a kid, like most kids, I thought that being an adult was joyless, full of work, and you wore the inability to have fun like a cape on your back for all to see. Having turned 30 this year, I feel like I am finally a real life, actual adult, and I have learned that while it’s hard to be as excited about everything as I was as a kid, there are still some things that make being an adult A-OK.

I find joy in things I never thought I could as a kid. When I was young, the things that brought me joy either beeped or cost a lot of money. Not only do things that beep or cost a lot of money now scare me, I find joy in the opposite of those two things. One of the best things about being an adult is finding the things that bring you the most happiness don’t cost anything at all.

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For me that is family, running and being outside, and playing with my dog. But the things that don’t cost anything aren’t the ONLY  things that bring me joy as an adult; I do have a full-time job that doesn’t afford me the luxury of owning a Porsche, but does give me a little extra scrap to spend on this or that. When you’re not an adult, you can’t justify spending an extra dollar for bacon on your burger, but when a waitress says the guac on your burrito is an extra $2, you don’t even flinch (you also saw that coming, Chipotle). But having enough behind you to let your instinct answer and not have to think about it is a good thing.

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It’s also fun to realize all the misconceptions you thought about adults isn’t true. I remember being young, and thinking all adult conversations were boring and about work or business or the stock market or newspapers. When you get a little older, you realize there are still fart jokes to be had and most adults in conversations about politics just nod and rehash information that isn’t any deeper than a headline they might have seen on Twitter.

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You can go on vacation by yourself. Don’t get me wrong, family vacations are fun, but so are vacations you go on with one person (hey babe!), or maybe just one other couple. You will experience places entirely differently if you don’t have to worry about hiding alcohol in your suitcase or going to Magic Kingdom twice in a week. Now, I get to go to a swanky bar so I can nurse a $8 bottle of Miller Lite for an hour and talk about how much fun it was.

“Do you want to have one more or go somewhere else?”

“Already tabbed out. Let me help you with your coat.”

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All in all, being an adult has it’s drawbacks. As much fun as those quiet, cost-less moments are, there are equally as many boring ones where there isn’t anything to watch on TV but Flip or Flop or Wives with Knives. Money is a lot of fun, but bills, budgeting, and not being able to pull the trigger on a pair of running shoes despite the fact that yours have a huge tear in them all aren’t very much fun. But, in the end, and for as much fun as I had when I was younger, I wouldn’t trade where I’m at for anything. Plus, and maybe the best thing about being an adult, is being able to look back at everything you used to do and remember all the great things that led you to where you are today.

What Feels like Magic to you?

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This is part two of Death to Stock Photo’s writing prompt series that I am writing both on Medium and WordPress. The prompt was “What feels like magic to you?” and below is what I think feels like magic to me.

Magic is a funny thing because in order to feel it, you have to let your mind give up on trying to figure things out. The first thing I think of when I think of “magic” is the guy on stage with a black top half either making something disappear or pulling something out of thin air. Your first thought is always “how did he do that?” The younger we are, the more willing we are to just call it magic and believe.

As we get older, those old magic tricks aren’t as awesome. We try to figure it out, and instead of chalking it up to magic, we say things like “slight of hand, mirrors, illusions, or trick deck.” We aren’t as willing to accept magic into our lives because as we become adults, imagination turns into reason and we over-analyze why things happen, whether its a magic trick or an accident on the highway.

There are times, however, that magic can find it’s way back into our lives if we let it. For me, one word stands out when I think of what feels like magic to me, and that word is “connect.”

When I hear a song for the first time that I connect with, it feels like magic. The other night while I was running, I heard a song (The Gambler by Fun) that made me think of my wife and how I wished we could have used that song in our wedding somehow. There is no explanation for why that song at that moment made me feel that way, just like as a kid, there is no explanation for how a someone could be sawed in half but still move their arms and feet from a separated box.

When I see a movie that I connect with, I want to go out and do something; I want to be a better person or fulfill some aspect of my life that isn’t complete (hopefully for other people who feel the same way, that movie isn’t SAW or Fear and Loathing for two very different reasons). I sign up for a race because I want to connect with some athletic part of me I miss from years back when that was a big part of how I identified myself. The euphoria I feel when I run now is magic to me.

When I read books and connect with an idea or a character I think it’s magic. Years ago, I read Anna Karenina and there is a section that deals with one of the primary characters, Levin. Levin was a farmer (more or less) who would go out and work the fields with some of the peasants he hired. The passage in the book finds Levin in a field and connecting the synergy of the world to the trees and crops, and how they all work in harmony to help the people live and survive. I remember reading that and deciding that was my idea of God. The fact that something someone wrote more than 100 years ago can change my mind on how I think about life can only be described as magic.

Whether we are children or adults, magic comes down to taking a step away from something and just accepting it for what it is. It’s not about reason, logic, or facts, but about allowing yourself to live in whatever moment you happen to be in and connect with something that moves you.

5 Ways to Make yourself a Better Person by Tomorrow

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Betterment is a word I have to verify was actually a word when I came up with this sentence. It is also the act of improving oneself and is something we should all strive for everyday. In order to better yourself, you don’t have to travel to Tibet to build orphanages or send your entire paycheck to the animal shelter and live in poverty. Betterment begins with little changes that might turn into something huge, or they might fizzle out after a moment’s thought. The point is, if our mindset is to get better and we are honest about improving, we can’t help but better ourselves, even as early as tomorrow!

Here are five little things you can do to be a better person tomorrow than you (already) are today.

  1. Do 10 (more) pushups – Doing 10 pushups isn’t going to be the different between a six-pack and beer belly. Doing 10 pushups is like putting the change from your pocket at the end of the day into savings. In itself, it isn’t going to make you rich. But by saving little by little, you’re developing good habits. Likewise, doing 10 pushups today might make you do 10 pushups tomorrow, and maybe 15 the day after that. Improving your health is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. We only get one body, so take care of it!
  2. Do something unexpected – Maybe it’s start a blog or write someone you haven’t talked to in awhile an email. Whatever it is, mix up your routine and surprise yourself. Too often, we get stuck in ruts and just decide that we are going to grind our way through something and it will magically get better. If we don’t ever try to change something and do things a little differently sometimes, we’re destined for the same tomorrow that we have today.
  3. Be charitable – This doesn’t mean you need to donate money or your time, although if you have the chance to do so, you should. Being charitable means making someone else’s life better in some way. You can tell your mom you love her or help your wife out by cooking dinner instead of asking her to do so.
  4. Use the world “love” – They’ve done studies (“they” being top, top level scientists I’m sure) that prove that if you force yourself to smile, you will improve on your mood. Similarly, if you use the word “love” when talking to someone or writing an email, you will improve your own mood as well as make an impression on the person to whom you’re talking(provided you don’t say something like “I love cheating on homework” or “I love stealing from kids”).
  5. Be thankful – being thankful is one of the best ways to be a better person because it shows humility and will make people want to gravitate toward you. Whether in remedial tasks and life in general, being thankful reminds oneself that there are those in the who don’t have what you have. Just the fact that you can read this post means you have a lot more than some people, and not taking anything for granted is a great perspective to have in life.