10 things I'm grateful for in 2018 June 18, 2018

  1. My friends. I returned to Portland after stints in both Seattle and Eugene, mainly to be closer to my friends during what was a rough period of last year. I've been humbled by the incredible support my friend have offered me this year and hope I've been as emotionally available to them as they have to me.
  2. My apartment. When I sought to return to Portland, I knew the housing market was crazy. Amidst the emotional turmoil surrounding a recent breakup, I did my best to find a new place to call home. Luckily I found a great fourth-story apartment in a newer building for below market rate. It's perfect for me in that it's minimal, has bicycle parking, in a great location, and quiet. I really lucked out.
  3. My brain. I can't offer enough gratitude for having been born with the brain I have. For whatever reason, I was blessed with the right biological makeup to navigate our insane modern world. Had I been born two hundred years earlier I don't think I would have made it. Sure, my brain is also responsible for causing some existential dread, but it's also helped me to where I am now. Thanks, brain.
  4. Yoga. To help curb the existential dread that comes with a brain that tends to think too much, there's yoga. I've practiced yoga in the past, but always found myself falling out of the habit. After several months of practicing several times per week, I can attest to its benefit in helping calm my mind's chatter.
  5. My bicycle. Any time I'm feeling down and out, a quick ride to the park or to the cafe seems to quell whatever's ailing me. My current bicycle is a Surly with an eight-speed internal hub and a Brooks saddle. I've never enjoyed riding a bicycle as much as I enjoy riding this one, and I treat it like a baby.
  6. My family. My family has been there for me through everything. They were there to care for my cat when I foolishly sent my ex-girlfriend across the country with him. They were there for the fallout from the 2016 election... enough said. They were there when I moved back to Portland and they're always there when I need someone to talk to. I'm forever grateful for their continued generosity and open-heartedness.
  7. A newfound sense of optimism. I think that in our increasingly secularized world, our faith has eroded and been replaced with skepticism. Being skeptical is practical, but only as long as it's productive. To me, optimism is believing everything will be okay, even if you don't have the evidence to prove it.
  8. The inventiveness of those who came before us. It's so easy to forget that even a modest modern lifestyle is more luxurious than that of kings a hundred years ago. We've eradicated so much suffering through technological advances and we take it for granted every time we flip a light switch or flush the toilet.
  9. Those who put their lives at risk to help others. The other day I asked myself how I would react if I were tasked with risking my life to save someone else's. I've never been much of a hero and I'm not confident in my bravery given a dire circumstance. I'm thankful there are people who are.
  10. Time. I'm most grateful for the time I'm afforded each day to live according to my own schedule, to pursue the things I want to pursue, and to live the life I want to live. Not everyone gets this much time. When I'm feeling boredom, I breathe and remember how lucky I am.

Every moment a lifetime, every lifetime just a moment March 22, 2018

Like you, I've been busy aging.

My days now seem to go by as quickly as the hours of my youth. Have you ever watched a timer counting down to zero? I'm pretty sure the digits change faster now than they used to. It's haunting to imagine the last year of your life passing as fast as the day you were born.

If time really is accelerating, or, at least, our perception of it, then ought we give any meaning to our measurement of it? It might be more prudent to ignore the whims of our clocks and calendars and to realize the futility of our compulsive time-tracking.

This moment is one in a series of moments that will end in death. Within every moment is a lifetime of possibility. Every lifetime is a mere moment in the expanse of the cosmos. Let's cease ours.

The psychological shift of a penny saved March 11, 2018

I've noticed that, since beginning my financial indepedendence journey, my psychology around risk has changed.

Before accruing substantial savings and learned the art of frugal living, I would constantly wonder if I'd become destitute should I lose my income. This would drive me to remain in jobs I didn't enjoy, work for people I didn't like, and take whatever work came my way in order that I continue to service my status quo lifestyle.

But now, I know I'm free to walk away. I'm not driven to go get a "stable" job in order to maintain a cycle of paycheck-to-paycheck spending. The idea of taking a month, two, or three, away from client work, doesn't terrify me. It excites me because I know I have the resources to continue living normally through that time.

In the financial independence community online, there's a tendency to measure financial independence as a binary state: You're either ready to retire or you're not. I think this distinction makes sense if you work a salaried 9-5 job; in this case you don't have a choice in when you work, for how long, and under what conditions.

But for those of us who have built consulting businesses or otherwise have escaped the industrial-age idea of a 40-hour workweek, financial independence is more of a continuum. We ask the question "What percentage of my expenses could be paid with passive income from my investments?" Framed like this, it's easier to see how much freer you are if you have an invested nest egg, even if you're a ways off from true "retirement."

And those among us who pursue financial independence so fervently are, ironically, those who will probably work until we die—at least in some capacity. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit to save a million dollars. That spirit doesn't die upon hanging your spurs, but it sure feels good to know that each day you can hang them a few minutes longer than yesterday, if you so choose.

Reflections on sobriety March 9, 2018

For the past few years I've been on a journey to become sober.

It may come as a surprise if you know me; I have what most people would call my "shit together." I have a vibrant career, I pay my bills, I save money fervently, and have an incredible support network of beautiful friends. He mustn't have a problem.

By most accounts I don't have a problem. I've historically drank far less than most of my peers. I go to bed early most nights. I don't find myself saying "let's get one more" or "I could use another." I haven't kept alcohol in my home in years.

But I do have a problem. I have a problem with living this one precious life with anything less than my full attention. I have a problem with the idea that I might spend several hours one night in a state of malaise and stupor, engaged in conversations about nothing around a table doing nothing at all, only to wake up covered in my own sweat recovering for hours the next morning.

I have a problem with spending a single moment more of my life in that faded state. I have a problem with constricting my mind and poisoning my body and drowning my spirit all in the pursuit of muting the voice deep down within me that's screaming up and out for love and connection and touch and intimacy. That voice that's begging me to be more vulnerable. To show myself to others.

I have a problem with the idea that ingesting a poison is normal. That it's how we socialize. That it helps loosen us on dates. That it gives us courage. That it's fun to drink. It's not. It's fun to spend time with friends. Alcohol hitches itself to your fun experience and drags its feet along the ground screaming at you:

"YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH WITHOUT ME."

"DON'T YOU WANT TO HAVE A GOOD TIME?"

"I'LL HELP YOU RELAX."

"YOU'LL NEVER FIND A GIRLFRIEND WITHOUT ME."

"COME ON, IT'S EASIER THIS WAY."

But it's not easier. Alcohol forges a path of hardship, confusion, emotional distress, poor physical health, abusive behavior, malaise, lethargy, and financial ruin. It was never fun.

The diminishing returns of seeking behavior March 8, 2018

Have you ever noticed how, after accomplishing something you've sought to accomplish for a long time, you quickly find yourself feeling underwhelmed by the happiness you feel?

How, in spite of achieving what you set out to achieve, you find yourself still restless and longing for more?

I've been experiencing this recently. When I first moved back to Portland in October, I was fresh out of a relationship and feeling lonely. I thought that, if only I exercised my dating muscle a bit and started dating a few women, I'd feel a sense of gratification and completeness. I've now done that—some might say in excess—and yet the void I sought to fill remains. That's not to say we should stop dating—but we ought to ask ourselves our motives. Do we hope to fill the radio silence of our lives because it's uncomfortable, or are we striving to forge relationships that enhance our already blooming sense of community?

And then there's the dining table I found on Craigslist for a fifth of its retail price. I found chairs to match the next day! They're lovely and fit my apartment wonderfully. But I think my expectation ahead of their purchase were that, if I could just fill the void in my kitchen, I'd fill the void in my heart. Not so.

Have you ever left the house—not because you had to fulfill an obligation or a plan with a friend—but because you thought there might be something better waiting for you outside if only you looked hard enough? I've spent hours in cafes hoping for another interaction with a stranger, hoping for a connection. It's natural to hope for connection, but I'm not sure whether it's healthy be addicted to looking for it.

The truth is, whatever your circumstance right now, you're reading this article on a computer (or phone) and so you probably have everything you need. You have your own set of unique problems and you probably suffer a fair amount. I do, too. We may endure different suffering, but we have something beautiful in common: We can dramatically reduce our suffering not by seeking something outside of us, but by radically appreciating what is within ourselves.

Have a beautiful day.

You can relax now February 26, 2018

I'm learning to relax.

Here in Portland, we have an abundance of cafes serving some of the best coffee in the country. As a single man living alone with disposable income and a computer-based career that goes wherever I want, I frequently find myself in cafes during the week to escape the monotony of my home offce. But I've realized, in the past few months, the novelty has worn off and it's become more a compulsive habit to leave the house to work than a premeditated occasional treat.

By the end of the traditional 9-5 workday, I'm an exhausted mess. I've spent a fair bit of time unnecessarily commuting between coffee shops and paying their rent getting grossly overcaffienated. And, simultaneously, I recognize that when I'm at cafes, allegedly to escape the lonely monotony of my apartment, I don't tend to engage with others on account of being immersed in my work.

I'm resigning to change this behavior, starting this week. I'm going to try not going to cafes to work anymore, at all. Working from coffee shops has been a part of my identity since I was in college. I wonder what miracles lie on the other side.

I'm learning to relax.

It all ends December 28, 2017

I'm sitting working on my computer in a cafe. There's an old man, perhaps 75 years, sitting at an adjacent table. He wears a beige cardigan and dons a white beard on his otherwise bald head. His glasses are delicate and he leans an intricately carved cane against the table.

I spend so much time in cafes—hours per day—but rarely stop to think what will become or where I'll end up. I'm generally self-absorbed, wondering when I'll find a lover or a new career or a shimmer of elation in a sea of confusion. But, at the end of all of it, we're all alone. The man sitting alone at the cafe.

If only we realized sooner that all our attachments and confusion and jealousy and emotion and everything we experience every single day will one day inevitably and quietly ... end.

How our beliefs change our reality December 25, 2017

You've probably heard of new age ideas like the Law of Attraction, books like Think and Grow Rich, and movies like The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?. All of them share a common idea: That what we think inevitably becomes our reality.

We all know from experience that wishing an outcome into existence doesn't bring about the outcome. Who hasn't wished for more money, a new and lovely partner, or a more fit body? And who hasn't been disappointed when nature didn't deliver?

But I'd like to posit that although the Law of Attraction can be interpreted as new age hullabaloo, there is a grain of truth in the idea that is nearly as powerful if applied.

While our beliefs don't shape results directly, they do have a substantial effect on the action we take toward our desired results. If you believe you'll succeed, you're more likely to spend the time and energy required for success than if you believe you'll fail.

And at every step along our path toward our goal, we'll be confronted with bits of feedback which will further inform our belief. Progress strengthens our positive beliefs about our ability to succeed, which breeds more constructive action, which brings about more success.

So, will sitting around dreaming of a new lover who is yet to manifest bring them knocking on your apartment door? Probably not. But believing your dream can manifest means you're likely to hold yourself in higher regard, take the steps you need to get there, and ultimately find yourself in a scenario closer to where you want to be.

The meaning of life November 15, 2017

I've been thinking carefully about the meaning of life.

It's a tried concept that there's some inherent meaning to our daily existence. At one end of the spectrum of the discussion there's religious piety. At the other, nihilism.

I've heard the meaning of life is to be happy. To help others. To exist peacefully. These are platitudes that offer no tangible behavior prescriptions.

Instead,

You might say the meaning of life is to be happy. To act according to a set of virtues

As the climate changes September 5, 2017

With historic wildfires raging across the American West and back-to-back historic hurricanes in the Atlantic, I'm left panicking at the prospect of facing once-in-a-lifetime weather events every year.

But I do realize that, despite the hellish reality we face, there are opportunities for adaptation.