Good ones, bad ones, forgettable ones, memorable ones- we’re having experiences all the time, and I’m struck by how we choose to fill life with negative experiences when so many opportunities for goodness exists.

Life is not all flowers, but I’m surprised by the number of people who choose to live in a garden of weeds instead of ripping out the weeds and creating an environment where flowers can flourish. The truth is, your reality is your own making, and at any point you can tend to the garden of your life and create something extraordinary. So, if you are not doing this, what are you waiting for? Are you afraid of the work? Afraid of living different from others, and finding isolation on the periphery?

Okay, those could be potentially legitimate fears. I don’t think they are, but I’m willing to entertain you for a minute. I’m curious what an extraordinary life looks like. What percent of your life do you have to devote to doing extraordinary things to consider it extraordinary? That’s where your fear comes in. You’re wondering do you have to choose between living a life of adventure and all the other things you value. We can solve this.

The Math of Extraordinary

Let’s do the math. My number first. I committed to doing one extraordinary thing a year, 12 years ago. So far so good. For the past 12 years I’ve done at least one extraordinary thing a year. (It’s generally more than that because that’s just the way I am.)

Let’s just say one thing a year, though, for simplicity sake.

1 x 12 = 12 extraordinary things.

Each extraordinary thing lasted 4 days.

12 x 4 = 48 extraordinary days in 12 years.

How many days  are in 12 years?

12 years = 4,380 days.

What percent of days over the past 12 years did I do something extraordinary?

48/4,380 = 1%

In the past 12 years I’ve spent 1% of my life doing extraordinary things. 1, freaking, percent. That leaves me with 99% of life still left to eat, sleep, sh$#, hang out with friends, have a family, or do whatever you want.

Let’s say I do this for the next 30 years of my life. Piece of cake.

1 x 30 = 30 extraordinary things

Add in the 12 things I’ve already done.

12 + 30 = 42 extraordinary things

Multiply the whole shebang by 4 days, the length of the extraordinary activity.

42 x 4 = 168 extraordinary days in 42 years.

How many days was that in 42 years?

42 x 365 = 15,330 days

What percent of days over 42 years will I do something extraordinary?

168 / 15,330 = 1 %

Yup, it’s the same. We were using the same model so that makes sense. Is anyone else freaked out right now to think that a) if you do 1 extraordinary thing a year for the next 42 years you’re only using 1% of your life and b) that you can devote 1% of your life to this concept and actually live an extraordinary life.

What happens if do this a bit more sporadically, which is the tendency for most people. Between kids, work, and “life,” investing in our own life tends to take a back seat. So, let’s go randomized and see what happens.

Let’s say that of the 42 available years I do 13 extraordinary things. That’s about one every 3 years. We’ll still use 4 days for the time length of each extraordinary adventure.

13 x 4 = 42

The available days remains the same.

42 x 365 = 15,330 days

Now what percent of days over 42 years will I do something extraordinary?

42 / 15,330 = .27%

You’ve spent less than half of a percent of the last 42 years doing extraordinary things.

Is it any wonder that your life feels boring and unfulfilled?

Okay, okay, let’s really ratchet it up now. You’re a rule breaker, march to the beat of your own drum, sort of person. What if you wanted to really up your 1% baseline by doing ten extraordinary things a year. This is possible. I swear. So, how many days total would you be doing extraordinary things in 42 years?

420 x 4 = 1,680 days

1, 680 / 15, 330 = 11%

That’s still only 11 percent of 42 years spent doing extraordinary things. What would happen if you upped that number to 20 percent? 40 percent? Could you do it? Would it consume as many days as you thought it would?

I bet you spend more time drinking at the bar, watching Netflix or sports, or playing video games than you do living an extraordinary life. What if you choose one of those activities, and just converted all that time in to extraordinary activities, what would your life be like?

What is an Extraordinary life?

An extraordinary day is a day lived outside of your ordinary actions. No routine trips or experiences allowed here. You must do something new, and push yourself a bit.

What you do is your call. For me, it’s traveling the world, new adventures, meeting new people, taking new risks. But, for everyone this is different. Maybe your definition is lying on a beach somewhere, kayaking, flying kites, or roller blading 50 miles. 

Extraordinary Living

I want to live an extraordinary life, so I will. Doing so does not mean making every moment exceptional, but creating the habit of doing extraordinary things when you have the opportunity. As you can see from the math above, this doesn’t even require a lot of time.

I don’t want to look back on my life when I’m older and wonder where all that time went. That’s a byproduct of routine, of predictability, of living without intention or passion for life. I want to live with meaning and adventure. So, I’ll do at least one extraordinary thing a year for the rest of my life.

Just one thing. I can do that. Can you? You don’t need to drop everything you’re doing now, sell your house, push away everyone in your life, and set out on a 17 month around the world trip. While that is very exhilarating, that isn’t necessary, unless you want to. All you need to do is commit to doing one extraordinary thing a year for the rest of your life. That will take 1% of your life every year to do. Can you do that? Can you commit to doing one new, grand thing a year from now one until you die? I can. That’s easy. I know I can.

I know you can too. Get out there and make your life an adventure.

We have all experienced that feeling of nervous anticipation when you are bumbling, stumbling, and tumbling on the edge of something good, trying to find your way to the other side. Listening to that feeling will change your life. That feeling, which arises deep inside, tells you when you’re embarking upon a life change or new challenge. Your stomach flips and feels like it’s going to burst through your skin. Your mind argues with itself on the correct action to take. Did you make the wrong decision? Have you screwed up? What made you think you could do this?

This feeling can gnaw at you for days, or months, and give you a sinking sensation that just leave. You are not experiencing pain, but the realization that something is off, coupled with a sense of vulnerability and slight timidness at trying something new. After all, you could screw up and look like an absolute idiot. Or, you could succeed and look like a genius. Until that gets sorted out, though, the tension between the two is almost unbearable.

The acceptance of chaos and things which are both fuzzy and outside your control requires mental stamina. You will try to convince yourself to give up. You will fear the unknown, and worry that you have misjudged your situation or made a poor decision. But do not give in. This feeling of unease means you are just starting to get things right. This feeling serves as a guide to let you know that the path you are on is the right path.

Nothing worth having is easy, and everything of value requires hard work to get and keep. That feeling of slight discomfort, which tells you only that you are straying from your usual actions, can be so powerful that you will shun action in exchange for the mediocrity of a comfortable life. If you desire something more for yourself, and also know you deserve more, than get comfortable right now with being uncomfortable.

Life Changes

If you are not pushing yourself to the point of discomfort than you are not living up to who you can be as a man or woman. We get scared of pinch points, mistakenly believing that if it hurts it’s bad. While that advice served us well as children, that thinking is horrible for adults. In addition to pain meaning bad, pain can also mean that something is worth it.

I assure you I am not a masochist, and you definitely won’t hear me tell you to charge towards every obstacle you can see just because the obstacle is the way. Discomfort, however; has a way of tempering us and making us better than we thought we could be. Sometimes, the path to success requires only that you do not give up.

While this appears simple, finding the power to stay when you want to walk away might be one of the most difficult tests you face. We live in a world of unparalleled privilege, and having access to what we want when we want it means that we don’t often go without. We are a resource spending culture conditioned to receive what we want.

Enduring that feeling of apprehension requires banking satisfaction for later. In fact, that scenario can be downright scary. You are deciding to believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and trust your judgment in the situation. Who can honestly say they haven’t looked at tomorrow as a blight instead of a gift now and again? Who can say that they have never encountered a time when their self-trust was diminished?

And yet, when we are uncertain is when we most need to trust our judgment and believe that only we know what is best for ourselves. In that moment when we want to stray we must stay the course because we are close to something really good.

Stay and you will outgrow yourself, finding a reality which may or may not be as expected. But, one thing is certain. Your new reality certainly isn’t as scary as you thought it would be. Maybe one day you will even learn to enjoy the nervous anticipation of charging towards an unknown, and see opportunity as a chance to up your game.

opportunity cost

Every thing you do in life has a cost. This is a truth there is no way around. In every moment of every day you have a choice to give up something in order to receive something in return. The hope is that you will give up something you value less for something you value more. That’s called trading up, and that’s what smart people do. Are you being smart? Think about the currencies of your life and how you spend them. Are you overpaying?

You over pay when you either over value your purchase or under value your currency. This can happen when you decide to play a role with a specific web of expectations, lack confidence and self-worth, or think you need to play by someone else’s rules. Mistakenly believing you do not have a choice to seek out alternatives, or do things in a different way, causes you to pay more for things than they are worth. You never asked yourself one simple question- what are you willing to pay?

So, ask that question now. Ask the question each time you are about to pay for something. In life, many payment types are accepted. Aside from cash you have the amount of stress something brings, your health, your time, your friendships or relationships, and your freedom. That is not a comprehensive list either. There are so many different accepted types of payment at the check out counter of life. So, in each situation where a major decision is required, ask yourself, what am I willing to pay for this?  

Making decisions is that simple.

I can tell you right now our natural inclination is to go on a mindless spending spree, giving away all of our greatest currencies for things of lesser value. The difficulty you face is not paying in time, health, or freedom, but in knowing when to not pay. Saying no is hard.

When you do not pay because the cost is too high, be okay with your decision. We feel like a failure if we stop short of someone else’s ambition, or don’t live up to the expectations set by those close to us. But, none of that really matters. Are you happy? Do you feel good about the decision you made? Perfect, then you are not overpaying for anything. When you make the decision to not endure the cost than own that. If you do not then you will never be happy.

For example, if you refuse to give up a relationship for a promotion that would take you out of the state for work then be happy with that relationship. Do not look at the thing which once brought you so much joy with resentment. In that instance, you might as well have just paid the cost anyway because the relationship is already dead. In reality, you wanted to pay the cost, but held back out of a sense of propriety. 

We are afraid to not pay because we worry that means we’re compromising. In reality we are getting exactly what we have always wanted. Of course, this only works if you know yourself. If you don’t know what you want out of life then you mistakenly pay for things you do not want or need. In doing so, and then discovering the error of your ways you can become jaded to the world and think that life is just a game of balancing the tension between what we think we need to pay for and what we want to withhold paying for.

I can already see the objection- But, Hank, some times you don’t know what a thing is worth and at times may pay for something that ends up being a bad decisions. Or, maybe you passed on something that in hindsight you would now pay for.

For those missed opportunities, big whoop! More opportunities will come your way if you keep looking at the road ahead instead of at the path behind you. For those situations where you have paid and then find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, you can always stop paying?

In those instances you default on your loan as you refuse to invest any more of your currency in to the exchange, and, just as a default can be slightly messy and potentially embarrassing, the reality is that you pick yourself up and move on. The worst thing you can do is realize you’ve overpaid for something, and then continue to over pay because you are afraid of changing your situation. 

Often you won’t have an answer to what you are willing to pay, and that is ok. So, if you do not know your cost, be self-aware enough to know when that cost arrives which is too high and be okay with saying no to paying it. If you don’t know what you are willing to pay, then approach all situations with the full understanding of what you will pay. In each instance can you stomach the cost you’ve laid out? If so, pull the trigger. If not, then don’t pay. You do not want to wake up years from now and realize all of the things you acquired mean nothing to you, and that you have exchanged your most valuable assets for trinkets.

You can pay now, or pay later, but you must pay. No one, I repeat, NO ONE, avoids paying. In this truth not only lies the key to your freedom and happiness, but also your acceptance of the bad that exists in the world. Those that bankrupt themselves out of laziness, maliciousness, or depravity will reach a point when they cannot afford to pay for things anymore. Since they have valued their currencies so little, others will too, and they will be disrespected and disregarded, empty and lonely. These people end up poor in the things that matter while you will end up with assets that pay dividends and a heart filled with every bit of wealth imaginable. 

Where you put your currencies of life is entirely up to you though. Spend wisely.

Doors are portals to new challenges. But what lies on the other side is the unknown that scares us. Will we open to something positive or negative? Doors are a funny thing. They offer protection, and keep out the bad people from our little worlds. We feel safer behind a locked door, and there is something peaceful about closing out the outside world. This is especially true after a difficult day, or series of days, where we can feel the satisfaction of closing the door on the day and starting over tomorrow.

Doors can also prevent us from seeing the world. We close out the bad things and also close out the good. Doors are solid. That is their safety inducing quality. But, in their solidness they also prevent the good things from coming through too.

Door control who or what enters our world. If we do not want to answer an unknown knock and see what lies on the other side we do not have to. Or we can. The choice to see what is on the other side of that hunk of wood or metal is in our power, and usually dependent on our mood, feeling, self speak, or desires.

When we open that door we meet the most interesting characters. These characters make us laugh, cry, and sometimes deconstruct our lives. Other times, what faces us on the other side of the door is painful. The potential for pain makes us hedge by limiting or calculating the number of times we feel comfortable opening the door.

We pick and choose when we want to open the door, deploying such vetting methods as spy holes, blinds, and doors in front of doors. These mechanisms allow us to more wisely expend the energy in opening and closing doors. As we age we discover that knowing which doors to keep closed is just as important as knowing which to open.

Opportunity

A doorway is a portal, allowing us the chance to enter or exit any world we please. Sometimes we forget this potent quality about doors. A door is nothing more than a man made object that we can use as a tool to expand or contract our existence.

What we often do, though; is allow this barrier, which separates one world from another, to control us. We hide behind its safety. This is alright. Sometimes we need this. When we hide behind our doors, avoiding the knocking of opportunity on the other side, we let our pattern of comfort control our decisions.

Eventually the knocks cease, and we’re left behind that door wondering why nothing new is happening in our lives. We are stuck in a rut, bored, or maybe even depressed. We do not see that the opportunities we pushed away don’t mind being pushed away. Instead, they leave. They don’t try to convince us to let them in. If we are not ready they heed our apprehension

The good news is that at any point we can open the door and walk through. You can create your own opportunity, and that is even better than waiting for action to take you. Many wait for forces to act upon then, forgetting that they too possess the power to act. So, will you open your door today and act?

how to be happy

In any given month tens of thousands of people hop on the web, visit google.com, and ask “how to be happy.” Digging a little deeper I unlocked some related search phrases that also ranked high in terms of monthly hits. “How to be happy with what you have,” and “how much money to be happy” topped the charts.

I just have to wonder, why are we so unhappy? We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, during one of the most prosperous times in history, and yet, we cannot figure out how to be happy. Why are we searching the web for answers on how to be happy? How do we find happiness?

Although the question has not changed over the years, many argue that the complex webs of modern society have changed the method of finding happiness. I disagree. What the complexities of our world have done is make happiness more difficult to find by creating more opportunities for us to aggrandize the quest for happiness, not by making the process of achieving happiness different from our predecessors.

Put simply, finding happiness today is more difficult because we are addicted to chasing happiness and afraid to just be happy.

Chasing is Purpose

Our work lives have changed how we look at challenges and define our purpose. In order for businesses to become efficient, lean, and profitable we turned every job possible in to a process.

Process work relies on following quantified, data focused processes to drive work decisions. Purpose work focuses on using a person’s greater purpose and desire to serve a larger good through the work one does.

We went to college, and hoped to follow our passion, our purpose work. What we found was that the work we studied in school is no longer the work that exists in the world. Work requires we follow a blueprint that has been proven to make money, not a purpose that seeks to do good.

The loan officer no longer takes in to account the character of the person whom the loan is for, just the credentials required and laid out for him on paper by a large, corporate entity located thousands of miles away. The doctor must now keep in mind insurance company premiums when diagnosing and treating. In many respects, our work has been turned faceless, disconnected, mindless, and boring through statistics, business objectives, and data.

What would you do with happiness if you found it? Have you ever wondered that?

Given enough time, process work defeats purpose work, and work that once connected people to an intrinsic good now connects them to something that “pays the bills” or “lets them afford the things that actually make them happy” because of depersonalization.

But, humans are industrious, and what we lost in work we made up for in other areas of life. We like challenges because they give us purpose, and the greatest challenge is the quest for happiness.

So, happiness has become an unnamed ideal. We do not know how to get there. We do not even know where there is. We just know that we want happiness, and that everyone tells us we deserve such an ideal.

What would you do with happiness if you found it? Have you ever wondered that? We’d get used to happiness and in that normalcy we would again become unhappy. We are afraid of normal- of houses, marriage, kids, and anything our parents have. Chasing allows us to constantly seek the end goal without ever reaching it. The thinking is that if we never achieve the lofty aim of happiness then we can never discover unhappiness. After all, if you have not achieved the goal how can you lose it?

So, we chase and chase, meditating, and doing breathing exercises, putting ourselves on a vegan diet, and reading self help books about living a good life. We have an addiction to searching for happiness, and a fear of being happy.

How to be Happy in Modern Society

Our relationship with happiness is a classic example of believing the journey is the destination. By continually finding new ways to chase happiness we are happy. What that chase really gets you, though; is a dependency on finding new ways to squeeze an ounce more of happiness out of your current situation. The hope is that the process of wringing joy morsels out of life will bring happiness.

In reality, being happy is like going to the bathroom. You walk up to the toilet and just do it.

But, we can never be happy if we continue to look for the things that define happiness. This mentality presumes we lack something and are searching for that which we lack. How can you expect to be happy if you believe you do not possess the ability to be happy in the first place?

In reality, being happy is like going to the bathroom. You walk up to the toilet and just do it. Strategizing, thinking about, and planning your use of the restroom does not relieve your bladder. To get the result you must take the action. This is where that lovely phrase “s$*t or get off the pot” came from. Happiness is the same way. You must just be happy, in order to be happy.

You cannot talk about, brainstorm, and white board the components that need to be in place for you to be happy. If you wait for your life to be perfect before allowing yourself happiness then you will wait forever. Life is never perfect, and happiness is about finding joy despite life’s setbacks. All those caveats you hold as prerequisites to happiness ultimately prevent you from succeeding in your aim.

Just be happy. When you do this something amazing happens. You become happy, and you realize that all the hacks, tricks, tactics, and shortcuts to being happy are just roadblocks from the simple truth that all you need to find happiness is the right mindset. Barriers to joy will always exist, but what can always persist across changing circumstance is mindset.

Stop focusing on the things you cannot control, and start owning the things you can. One of those things you can control is happiness. So stop holding it in, and go to the bathroom already.