DO This:  My favorite quotes on living well

MY OWN THOUGHTS:

“You are what you do, not what you dream.” Martin Tobias

“If you are only a consumer, you will always lack wealth.” Martin Tobias

“Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision.  The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”  Martin Tobias

“When I can buy anything I want and decide to buy nothing, that is something.”  Martin Tobias

“The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.”  Martin Tobias

“Have a budget for all the fucks you give.”  Martin Tobias

“Not making a decision IS a decision.”  Martin Tobias

“Tranquility is achieved through equality, not superiority” . Martin Tobias

“The journey is the destination.” Martin Tobias

“Do not be the tilt you want to take advantage in the world.” Martin Tobias

“The past doesn’t matter and the future doesn’t exist. The only thing that matters is doing the next right thing.” Martin Tobias

“Truth” is determined by your frame (stories). You can choose your frames.” Martin Tobias

“Judgements are not the Truth. They can’t be. They are opinions.” Martin Tobias

“Science is an analogy, a theory.” Martin Tobias

FROM OTHERS:

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain

What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” Peter Thiel

“Not making a decision is a decision.” Terry Rose, my highschool debate team teacher.

“Non action is action.” Tai Chi.

“The half life of any negative state is incredibly short.” Sam Harris.

“Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid.” Faulkner.

“The ideal psychic state is not something to be newly made or created but experienced with the removal of those accretions which have hidden and thus prevented a realization of the self which we already are.” Pierre Hadot

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.” Mandy Hale,

“All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room.” Blaise Pascal.

“You will never find yourself in what you have built to define yourself.”  Untethered Soul

“If you take the blue pill, the story ends.  You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I will show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”  The Matrix

“It is all just stuff that has to be done.  So do it.”  Linda Treger (former therapist)

“Put fear in its place – as and advisor, not the captain.”  The Flinch (book)

“Be like water my friend” Bruce Lee

“The master should have the selling habit, not the buying habit.”  Cato the Elder

“Distraction destroys Destiny” . Sachen Patel

“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.

“A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”, Mark Twain.

“The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”  Soren Kierkegaard.

“Work is about the search, too, for daily meanings well as daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”  Studs Terkel, Working.

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”  Aristotle

“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  Seneca.

“It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist.”
Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

“Always pass on what you have learned.”  Yoda

“Do. Or do not.  There is no try.”  Yoda

“You will find only what you bring in.”  Yoda

“Just keep swimming.”, Dori, Finding Nemo

“The happy man is not he who seems thus to others, but who seems thus to himself.”  Publilius Syrus.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”  John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan

“The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”  Thomas Carlyle

Steve Jobs vision of innovation and the world on You Tube.

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.  However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”   Stanley Kubrick.

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life

“Don’t believe everything you think.”
Byron Katie

“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them”
Byron Katie

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“We have two lives.  The first life and the second life after you realize you only have one life.”  unattributed.

“There are only two tragedies in life:  One is not getting what one wants; and the other is getting it.”  Oscar Wilde.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”  Warren Buffet.

“Objective judgment, now at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance – now at this very moment – of all external events.
That’s all you need.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.  Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle of our acting.

The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Marcus Aurelius

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.  Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”  Marcus Aurelius

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” -Thoreau

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman

Epictetus asked the question: “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.”  – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

“You are not your body and hair style, but your capacity for choosing well.  If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”  Epictetus discourses 3.1.39b-40a

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”  Epictetus.

“You become what you give your attention to…if you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will.” Epictetus.

Alan Watts: “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim, you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do, you will sink and drown. Instead, you relax and float.”

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”  Henry Ford.

“For such a small price, I buy tranquillity,” Epictetus’s line about ignoring small slights.

Philosophy,” Juvenal wrote, “by degrees, peels off most of our follies and vices, first shows us what’s right.”

“It is not that life is short, it is that we waste alot of it.”  Seneca

“Certainty is created within YOU not by your environment.”  Tony Robbins

“Beating the competition is relatively easy.  Beating yourself is a never ending commitment.”  No finish line.  Nike ad

“The duty of a man is to be useful to his fellow men; if possible to be useful to many of them; failing this, to be useful to a few; failing this, to be useful to his neighbors, and failing them, to himself; for when he helps others, he advances the general interests of mankind.”  Seneca

“A rock thrown in the air, it loses nothing by coming down, gained nothing by going up.”  Marcus Aurelius.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life:  it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising us the future.   The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.  The whole future lies in uncertainty; live immediately.”  SENECA

From Kim-An Williams, wife of my friend Matt Williams who died young after a long battle with cancer.  “I did not like being sick, but I did realize some important things through that experience.  One especially important lesson I learned is NEVER TO ASSUME THAT YOU KNOW SOMEONE ELSE’S STORY.  Everyone has something that they struggle with in life.  Everyone understands what it means to miss someone that they love.  You will meet lots of different people in your life, and not all of them will share your experience of having a mom who died when they were young, but they might have a different experience that can help them to relate to how you feel.  You become a stronger person when you really understand what it means to be sad and what it means to be happy.  You will be able to help other people understand their own sadness and happiness too.”

“Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom.  It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be per-formed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and thoughts.”  Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” . Shakespeare Hamlet

“In war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one.”  Napoleon

“Complaining isn’t a strategy.  You have to work with the world as you find it, not as you would have it to be.”  Jeff Bezos

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today” . Abraham Lincoln

“For countless generations our biochemical system adpated to increase our chances of survival and reproduction, not our happiness.”  Homo Deus

Glossary: Purpose

A guy on Quora wrote:  “A purpose is a real or an imagined belief that something has a use or a reason for being.”  Next he said “Meaning is the value or values which are assigned to that belief.”

When this is applied to a person in the existential context (as I mostly do), purpose is why I get up in the morning. What am I willing to live and die for.  What is the point of all this activity?  If you feel lost, wandering, most likely you need to get in touch with some kind of purpose, or your current purpose is not serving your overall well-being.  Searching inside your self, taking the Red Pill of self-awareness, can help you wake up to what purpose you are living today.  Examine it.  Is it in the pursuit self-transcendent  eudaimonia or self-enhancing hedonia (thanks Aristotle).  Is your purpose fear/anxiety based or hope/love based?

Victor Strecher wrote, “Purpose is a high-order goal that has deep value.”  In his recent book he has a whole framework for coming up with those higher order goals and starting to live a self-transcendent life of purpose.  While that is a noble goal, my use of “purpose” is a bit more pedestrian and less Utopian.  You have a purpose wither you admit it or not. Something is getting you up in the morning.  It could be pure habit. Or responsibility.  Or slavery.  Or duty.  You could get up for yourself or for the service of others or for no good reason other than you have to take a piss.  In that moment you purpose was to take a piss.  Sure that purpose was short term, driven by physical needs and hedonic, but so what?  Now how much of you life is driven by those kinds of purpose?

Purpose is not doing or being.  It is a framework for doing and being.  It is the “why” for all the other activities (or as many of them as you can).  The point of figuring out purpose is to get on with the DOING and BEING part of life.  So you can live more authentically, figure out what your values/strengths (start by doing a couple upgraded assessments) are and build a purpose on those values/strengths.

I don’t like “capital Purpose” because it sounds like a mountain.  It sounds like an unattainable huge burden.  I like to think of it more simply.  My purpose in life right now is my reason for being right now.  Here in the PRESENT.  That is not the same purpose I had 20 years ago. It may not be the same reason 20 years from now.  Purpose is the rudder on your ship.  A ship without a rudder gets blown around in the sea and likely will not end up where its occupants want to go.  To take any journey, you vehicle needs a rudder, a steering wheel.  That is purpose.  Purpose for me has a medium/long-term horizon (3-10 years).

Not everyone needs purpose.  Not every activity in life supports purpose.  In fact many activities explicitly contradict your purpose.  I am fairly certain the world would be a far better place if more people searched for a purpose and regularly (3-5 years) evaluated if their life was fulfilling their purpose.

My journey, in part, is to understand the purpose and LOOK for authentic alignment if aspects of current purpose doesn’t server my overall well-being.  Having a clear purpose is has been proven by multiple studies to result in greater health and happiness outcomes.  Time to get clear.

Why I am developing/testing self assessment and analysis tools

Martin Office (10)

As I walked out of the theater at the premier of The Matrix, while everyone else was talking about the game changing special effects and innovative fight scenes, I was obsessed with something else.  The Red Pill and the Blue Pill.   The nagging brain worm that something wasn’t right with the world, there was more underneath if you could just find it. The idea that we are asleep to reality most of our lives and it is possible to wake up and maybe even tap into some superpowers.

For the last three years I have been indulging this brain worm on a deep dive into waking up and becoming aware. Waking up is hard.  Sleep walking through life is so much easier.  I enjoy wandering and bumping into trees and having random experiences along the path, but sometimes I end up stuck in a traffic circle, or endlessly distracted by shiny things.  At that point I need tools, catalysts, doors finders. Lately I have been digging into the science behind finding your path and am uncovering some helpful self assessment (wake up) and intervention (stay awake) tools.  I hope to get a bunch of these into easily digestible forms for broad distribution.  Why?  To improve my own understanding and awareness.  To maybe connect a couple of dots.  Should you take the tests and investigate your own life also?.  Not because I say so, but because you are searching too.

The two central elements of Eudiamonist philosophy are: (1) “know thyself” (inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi) and (2) “choose thyself”, or in the words of Pindar, “become who you are.”  Eudiamonism calls on each person to live in accordance with his/her inner daimon, that is, to strive toward self-realization.  However, before it is possible to make any notable progress toward self-realization, it is necessary to have recognized and decided what type of person one is now.  The ancient Greeks could spend a whole life in this search.  Who has time for that now?  We need updated tools. We need to use technology and the accumulated wisdom of the ages to hack self-discovery.  New tools should speed this process up and then we can get on to the doing and being part of life.  It took me too long, I hope your journey helped with these tools.

I am not a therapist and don’t play one on TV.  I am not an expert in any scientific or academic field.  But I have connected a couple of dots along the way.  These are examination tools and you are the patient and doctor.  They are designed to be short and relatively dense allowing for Hopefully their use raises relevant questions, opens new paths on the journey, increases understanding and awareness.  You are the one that has to take the steps, open the doors, decide on the direction and keep going.  The Red Pill or the Blue Pill.  Your decision.

For me this journey has little to do with today’s self help industry or positive psychology movement. I have had my fill of “you can do it” sloganeering, that is part of the dream world.  I am wholly uninterested in platitudes and empty motivation.  I want to know myself and understand what works and what is real and true. Sometimes the truth is you can’t get what you want. But everyone can examine their wants for authenticity.  I have found that some prior wants were based on screwed up value systems and were inauthentic to my true self so they were put aside.  This journey for me is about finding the red pill and putting aside the dream world.

Over 2,200 years before the Matrix, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”  His “Meditations” were primarily for himself as my musings here are.
Not making a decision is making one.

Ignorance is not an excuse nor is it bliss.

Only you can figure out yourself.

I took the Red Pill.

Get my favorite Life Hacks delivered in email

I hate email lists.  I have funded two different companies to kill SPAM of all sorts.  But lots of people have asked if I would send out an occasional email with my favorite Life Hacks in it.  Originally I thought “Sure, but don’t expect more than a couple a month.”  But I have since decided to not do an email at all so I am removing the ability to subscribe.  I am turning DGC more introspective, a notebook to myself, like Meditations, so outbound publishing to the world is not a priority.  If you want to follow my internal process, subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter.

 

A step along the path of life: The new car on your 16th birthday

Along the journey of life there are many paths, many doors, many side trips and some major milestones that mark significant achievement and can change the path/journey in significant ways.  Getting my first car was definitely a defining moment in my life (even though I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time).  Yesterday, with the benefit of 36 years of hindsight, I set my own daughter on the road with her own car.  The experience has caused my monkey mind to go into overdrive, some of which I share here.

Yesterday my daughter Finn turned 16.

2016-05-29 12.34.59 HDR

For the past year she we have been practicing driving, talking about driving, reading books on driving, taking courses on driving, and generally obsessing about the day Finn can drive herself around.  That day came yesterday.  2016-05-29 12.37.50

Getting a drivers license and your own car has got to be a high order American coming of age ritual.  It is a big step up on the road to independence.  It lies on a foundation of trust, learning, responsibility and achievement.  As a parent the decision to provide a car required contemplation (is she ready?) and not an insignificant amount of mourning (no more time together driving around town).   Finn earned the car through hard work and deserves all the freedom and responsibility that comes with it.

Martin Tobias at 16 was not ready for his own car.  While I doubt my parents put as much existential angst or contemplation into the issue as i have given the demands of 6 other kids around the house and far less money to go around, looking back, it was a very good thing that the 16 year old Martin Tobias did not get a car.  I was rebellious, irresponsible, boundary pushing, and generally an unhappy kid.  I had already been in the hospital three times from thrill seeking bicycle accidents.  As high school graduation loomed large and all my friends already had their college plans locked down, a stark reality hit me.  If I didn’t get my shit together I would be working in the damn pizza parlor my whole fucking life. I got my shit together.  Just before heading off to college I invested my pizza cook savings into a $300 1972 Ford Galaxie 500.  I loved that car because it was mine.  I was ready for that responsibility.

What does it mean exactly to “being ready for your own car” ?  My criteria include:

  •  A demonstrated history of responsible decisions. (demonstrated self regulation)  Choosing to do the homework instead of hang out with friends.  Saving money instead of spending it all. Ability to eat only one piece of cake.
  •  Significant attention to detail.  Driving is all about attention and pattern recognition.  80% of collisions are caused by driver inattention.  Even without the distractions of music, texting (1 in 4 accidents), et al, can you pay attention to details when necessary?
  • Ability to take on part of the financial and logistical responsibility.  When you spend your own hard earned money (job or allowance) on something you take better care of it, reinforcing responsibility.  Saving for a car was the #1 reason I got a job in high school.
  • An absence of clearly dangerous behavior traits.  If your child has problems with drugs or alcohol or depression or has clear impulse control issues, wait on the car.  You do not “owe them a car” because their friends got one. You owe it to them when they are ready, or when they make themselves ready.

Now I know many parents don’t put this much contemplation into what the car at 16 means in life. Plenty of parents are just happy to get the kids out of their hair and get more of their own time back.  But 16 is two years before most kids head off to college (a top 3 milestone) and definitely the beginning of the end of childhood.  How do we recognize, honor and note that transition in our lives?  With the decline of traditional religious adulthood rituals (Bat Mitzvah, Quinceanera, etc.) how do we do this?  Making a big deal about the car and what it means has served well as a coming of age ritual for generations.  Not everyone does it, but it works well for those that do.

All this stuff was sloshing around in my head as I sat down to feed Harper, my 9 month old.

2016-05-24 18.06.54

Driving day for Harper T-15 years.  Suddenly a horrific thought came to my mind.  Would advancements in transportation technology destroy the first car ritual for Harper’s generation?  How will Uber change individual car ownership in 15 years?  What about self driving cars (my Tesla is already there, but hobbled by software and liability issues)?  If technology could free all that driving time to do other things, would we choose to free up that time?  Coming of age rituals very significantly across the world and have changed over time, but I am not sure I am ready to see this one go.  With regret I predict that Harper will be very unlikely to have a significant coming of age experience around getting her drivers license and first car 15 years from now.  By then she will likely have already been shuttled around town by inexpensive on demand transportation services of all types for many years.  Why waste time driving yourself?

As with many monkey mind sessions, I am not sure there is a solution in here.  Mostly observations.  After having so much swirling around I have found it helpful to name the major feelings that arose around this issue.  The Coming of Age Car Crisis elicited:

  •  Apprehension.  For all the trips without me Finn will take.  With all the increased access to the unknown now, access to the harmful, the hurtful, the danger in life will also increase.  Letting go is very scary.
  • Humble.  By the wonderful person Finn has become, one who is ready for all that comes with a license and a car.
  • Excited.  To see where the road continues to take Finn.  And for my own next chapter without all the driving of her and her friends around.  For where the path goes from here.

Stay tuned for more updates from the path of life and invitations to contemplation.

Some of my favorite teen driver resources:

How to Drive: Real World Instruction and Advice from Hollywood’s Top Driver

Some thoughts on “enough”. 

Read this story about Joseph Heller ( author of catch 22) today on quora.  Fits right in with some other thoughts I have been having about happiness.  

As the new year is upon us and many people are thinking about what they want to do different in the new year than last I have been hearing many things that all basically come back to ” I want more”. Whenever I want more it has always lead to unhappieness. What I am starting to realize is that is not the lack of the thing that causes the sadness (because after getting the thing I have never ever been completely satisfied).   It is the search for more (or less) that is the source of the unhappieness. The key is to accept “enough” and enjoy the now.  

Last year my New Years resolution was to end the year with less stuff than I started. I was on a paring down kick.  I completely failed.  Oh sure I went though the garage and drove two trucks of stuff to the st Vincent de Paul and a load to the dump.  But I also bought a bunch of new stuff all of which seemed absolutely necessary at the time despite my best overall intentions.  One area of explosion was kids stuff.  How does that stuff seem to multiply at 10x the rate of anything else in the house?  

Have not figured out New Years resolutions incorporating these new learnings yet. But stay tuned.  

Someone asked me “how do I get happiness?”

Stop looking for it. 
No really I mean it. Some questions start out from a bad place that makes the answer impossible or pre ordains certain categories of answers (or precludes others). The form of your question has this flaw.  
Something that can be “gotten” must be a person, place or thing right? Something that can be found must have a path to it somehow. It must be a destination. It must be somehow discoverable to anyone with the right finding/getting tools.  
In my experience happiness is something completely different. I find it much more part of the journey than the destination itself. Happiness comes in glimpses here and there. Happiness is only appreciated when it’s opposite is also experienced. In fact happiness is heightened greatly when in very close proximity to fear and pain. 
In my experience there are three different modes of being in happiness and I need a good balance of all three to be able to answer the “are you happy” question in the affirmative.  
Happiness of pleasure: physical as well as mental pleasure. All animals know this one.
Happiness of grace or gratitude: since I write this the day after Thanksgiving this should be top of mind while this form of happiness is typically taken for granted the rest of the year. This is the happiness you feel when being thankful or recognizing grace in your life. For noticing the things larger than yourself. 
Happiness of excellence. A job well done makes one very happy. Doing hard work, yes going through unhappiness in service of something larger can lead to much greater happiness. This kind of happy can only be experienced after achieving a goal built on many failures and struggles. 
So stop trying to get happiness as a possession. 
Eat a piece of cake 

Look up at the sun and be thankful for its warmth

Set a high goal and achieve it through hard work. 
String enough of those experiences together, figure out how to create happiness on demand after any set back. Then when anyone asks you the question “are you happy” you will know how to answer yes.