Rise Above External Negativity

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The guy who beeped at you isn’t angry that you took two seconds to go when the light turned green. He’s upset that his kids don’t communicate with him anymore. 

The woman who gossiped about you at work isn’t really angry with you. She’s upset that she never got that big break she dreamed of, and feels stuck. 

The person who is nitpicking and makes snarky comments on the article you wrote isn’t really so upset that you misspelled a word. They’re upset because they don’t feel the love and affection from those around them.

No matter what we do in life, we will never make everyone happy, and especially not all at the same time. We can try our hardest to do the right things, and we should as often as possible. But sometimes, others will react negatively and try to tear us down.

It’s important to realize that this is not personal. If someone else is upset, or angry, that is what they have chosen to be at the moment. Their negativity is simply a way of trying to release the intense suffering they feel. They may just not know how. More than anything, it’s really a cry for help and a longing for friendship.

If you can be a friend in this situation, and help someone get down to the bottom of their stress in order to release it - despite them actively trying to bring you down - congratulations. It’s one of the toughest things in the world to do. It’s not something you can do every time, because it takes an unbelievable amount of energy, patience, compassion, and willpower. Too much of this will drain you and distract you from accomplishing anything else.

I’ve tried it and succeeded a few times, and I’ve also tried it and failed miserably other times. If you do give it a real effort and see that it is of no use, distance yourself from it and don’t engage. Perhaps they’re not ready to look within right now, or just need to hear it from someone else. But don’t feed into the negativity. Don’t let it infect you. No one can make us upset. We can only choose to be upset; and when we do, it is now our problem and ours alone. Now we need to be quarantined and treated as well, or else we risk moping, complaining, and spreading this infection to even more people.

It’s important to learn how to deal with this type of thing in the most effective and evolved way. Otherwise, we will often allow the fear of dealing with this outside negativity to force us to play small. To speak softer than we want to speak, to hide the ideas that others might not approve of, to need others to tell us that what we’re doing is acceptable.

And that doesn’t serve anyone.

If you pour your heart and soul into growing the best strawberries you can possibly grow, someone will still hate strawberries. That’s okay. That has nothing to do with you. You didn’t hurt anyone. Many other people will still like them; and if you enjoyed growing them, then it was worth doing. Sometimes you’ll create a batch that doesn’t come out good. That’s okay too. Sometimes I write things that aren’t as fluid and clear as I’d like them to be. Not every at bat is going to be a homerun. But the only way we can ever hit a homerun is by having the courage to keep stepping up to the plate.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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Why Everyone Should Try Meditation

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To understand meditation in a nutshell, go get a camera and take two pictures of the same thing.

For the first, hold your camera as still as possible, and take a picture.

For the second, shake your camera back and forth as fast as you can while you snap the photo.

The difference between the clarity in the two pictures is the difference in the clarity of a life with and without meditation.

If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming superhuman as a child, practicing meditation is probably the closest thing possible to experiencing it as an adult. Developing a regular practice leads to the creation of a virtual bulletproof vest for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Meditation means different things to different people. There are dozens of types, styles, and schools of thought surrounding it; including Samadhi, Vipassana, and Zazen. My intention for this post is not to compare the pros and cons of the different practices. What I’d like to do is give you a glimpse into what benefits can arise as a result of any method you choose.

One of the most important functions that has evolved for human survival is the ability to adapt and adjust to our surroundings. The brain and body are dealing with an unbelievable amount of stimuli in every single moment of life, and focusing on all of them at once would be impossible. So, the mind tends to shift as many familiarities as possible to the proverbial unconscious back burner. For example, you probably weren’t paying attention to the feel of your shirt on your torso until you read this sentence. Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ve brought it back into your conscious thoughts, and you do notice it. Somewhere in the next few paragraphs, your mind will place it on the back burner again to be able to focus on understanding this article. Pretty fascinating, no?

Our minds do this to us constantly. We forget about the things and patterns that seem to be the most consistent, in order to focus on something new and unknown. Have you ever been extremely excited by the purchase of a brand new car, only to lose all appreciation for it several days or weeks later? This is the mind at play. This is also one of the many reasons why I don’t ever plan to buy an expensive car. It’s basic human psychology.

No matter what conditions we are thrown into, they eventually become commonplace with time. Our minds have the tendency to take the good things for granted, and focus solely on what we don’t have. To make things even worse, we eventually get used to all of the things we try to use to fill the void. This causes us to desire an even stronger dose. Left unattended, the mind can become a built-in misery creation device; or our own worst enemy. The good news: it can be befriended and tamed with the right amount of discipline.

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For the purpose of simplification, I will describe a very basic type of meditation.

1. Sitting in a comfortable position, breathe in until your stomach and lungs are so far out that you don’t think any more air can fit inside your body. 

2. Then breathe in a little more.

3. Hold this in for a few moments. Exhale slowly.

4. Enjoy a brief pause before inhaling again. 

5. Close your eyes, and repeat this process again 5-10+ times. Don’t worry about keeping count, the number of breaths is unimportant. This will only serve to distract you from the true purpose of the meditation. Focus only on the breath, as if it were the only thing that existed in the universe.

Go ahead and do it now.

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Stop reading and do it! No cheating! :)

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How do you feel now?

Research has shown that deep breathing practices have tremendous benefits for stress reduction, self esteem, and overall health. It increases concentration and memory. If you are a public speaker, you will be more natural and calm in front of crowds. If you play basketball, your shooting percentage will go up. If you write or invent things, meditation is like steroids. It’s almost an unfair advantage.

This is just the beginning.

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When meditating for longer periods of time (say 30-120+ minutes), that’s when truly amazing things begin to happen. In the deep silence, time slows to a halt. It can be seen for what it really is: a man-made invention that we all agree to use to simplify things, but something that doesn’t truly exist in nature. We begin to realize that our constant obedience to the concept of “time” has caused us to rush around through life, without ever taking breaks to be introspective. We end up overlooking important insights like these all of the time. Wisdom arises so much more easily; solutions to recurring problems become so clear that we wonder how we had never seen them before. 

Without the constant judgment and influence of those outside, we are able to reconnect with our very own deepest truths. We remember what it should feel like deep down to live the way we were meant to live, to treat others the way they were meant to be treated. We look ourselves directly in the mirror, see where we are lying to ourselves, and rediscover what we know is right. We regain access to the inner compass that we have been too busy to look at, causing us to veer way off course. We reflect on the decisions and actions we’ve made. We become happy about the ways we’ve grown, and remorseful about the times we’ve stooped below the level of human decency and empathy we know we should be living with every day. 

We unlock the capacity for healing deep scars, and moving forward with life. We experience compassion for others like we’ve never been able to before. A group of loud kids transforms from “a headache” into a group of young human beings playing and creating newfound joy together. A barking dog changes from being a nuisance to a great friend who wants someone to pet her, feed her, or take her for a walk. A homeless person on the street is no longer a worthless beggar, but a person who has faced extreme hardship, and needs care and guidance to find their way back to where they belong. A person ceases to work with the intent of extracting money from people, but instead to gain the satisfaction of knowing that the results of their creative process are truly bringing joy to others’ lives and reconnecting us with our lost humanity.

Meditation creates a greater capacity for empathy. It allows one to become a better friend, a better relationship partner, and a better person overall. It gives a person a silent radiance that draws others in; because we can all sense when someone is connected to something greater than themselves, and know that we could be doing the same.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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11 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

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These are some of my favorite TED talks of all-time, guaranteed to inspire. If you have some favorites of your own that are not listed here, you may add them in the comments below.

John Hunter - The World Peace Game

Marcin Jakubowski - Open Sourced Blueprints for Civilization

Hyenseo Lee - My Escape from North Korea

Simon Sinek - How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability

Amanda Palmer - The Art of Asking

Derek Sivers - How to Start a Movement

William Kamkwamba - How I Harnessed the Wind

Elizabeth Gilbert - Your Elusive Creative Genius

Myshkin Ingawale - A Blood Test Without Bleeding

Hans Rosling - Let My Dataset Change Your Mindset

This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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Typically, we are taught to see genius as some form of superhuman, innate ability that is out of our grasp. In reality, genius is primarily about having the passion and willingness to give up the inessential — in order to focus on the one objective deep down that drives us like none other.

Fuck Your Comfort Zone

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Yeah, I said it.

FUCK your comfort zone. It does not deserve to exist. Annihilate that mothereffer.

All throughout your life, it’s always been the one thing that stands between who you are, and who you want to become. Every time an opportunity has come up to step out into uncharted territory, to do something that would fulfill your soul, it’s been the invisible hand that squeezes the back of your neck and pulls you back at the very last moment.

The power it holds over us is immense. It can stop us from trying out for something we want. It can make us stand up against the wall at the party instead of shuffling in the middle of a giant circle of people. It can prevent us from telling that stranger in the coffee shop that we want to know their name, and what they’re like. Though it’s invisible, the power it has over us is undeniably real.

But here’s the great thing about having an invisible foe: It’s like the bad guy from The Matrix. He’s all in your head. He does not physically exist in reality. And once you understand that, you can learn how to destroy him.

It’s important to understand that when it comes to overcoming fears, you can choose to live your life in one of two ways:

Either you control them, or they control you.

No matter what fear it is, the willingness to stare it in the face and take action without batting an eye will create a major detour in your life. It will take you off-road; away from the dreaded little cookie-cutter-box-store life that others have tried to squeeze you into, and into the wild and rugged terrain that you’ve always yearned to explore. The rules of the universe begin to bend differently for you, and a radiant and silent power begins building up inside where there was once only a sickening overflow of timidness and regret.

The key: Take baby steps. Achieve small victories.

Make a list of everything that you’ve always wanted to do, but you’ve always let fear hold you back from doing. And one by one, starting with the smallest, do them.

Perhaps you’ve wanted to share your views about something edgy, but are terrified of posting it on the internet to be judged and chewed up by the entire world; who will gather outside of your house and yell on megaphones about how incompetent and worthless your opinions are. Your boss will read it and fire you, your significant other will dump you, and your family will give you up for adoption. You will be an ex-communicated wandering leper, scrounging alone through the deserts, looking for a cactus that hasn’t read your blog yet in order to ask it for a drink of water to survive another day.

Scary, isn’t it?

I remember doing my first creative writing several years ago, on a piece of paper that I kept in my wallet. I was terrified to show anyone. It was a mini-inspirational speech that I would read to myself whenever I felt like giving up in calculus III. One night in college, half-delirious from pulling an all-nighter with a friend, I felt comfortable enough to show it to him. And guess what happened?

HE MADE A COPY FOR HIMSELF, SO THAT HE COULD READ IT WHEN HE WANTED TO GIVE UP ON STUDYING TOO.

I was blown away. I showed a few other friends, and they all told me I should be an inspirational writer or speaker. At the time, I shrugged it off, thinking they were just being polite, and went back to studying the dull principles of civil engineering.

Back then, I never believed that one day I’d have the courage to say things online in front of millions of people that most wouldn’t even discuss with someone until they’ve dated for at least six months.

When I was a kid, I was very quiet and shy. I hated speaking on the phone, and would just give people one word answers. Hi. Good. No. Okay. Bye.

Breaking out of the shell is a process. If you’re scared to take even a small step, find an even smaller one. Post something anonymously, so that it’s not even like people are judging you. Practice your speech in front of two friends before you do it for 20.

Every time there’s something I know I probably should do, but I’m afraid of it, I push myself to do it. I still remember the first time I went up to a stage at a conference in front of 300 people — it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It was scarier than when I jumped out of an airplane. But when it was over, I felt like a different person. Another time, I got on stage at a club and danced in front of 1,000 people as part of a hot body contest. The whole time I thought:

Who the hell are you, and what have you done with the quiet little boy who used to live here?

The best part: After I did that, a friend of mine who was out of shape joined the competition — with six pack abs we drew on with a black sharpie marker. AND HE WON. And it was one of the funniest and greatest things ever.

After something like that, the fear knob gets turned down in every other part of life. You think to yourself: If I can jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, if I can dance in front of 1,000 people, if I can move thousands of miles away to a city where I don’t know anyone, after quitting my job without something else lined up — why on earth would I be afraid to write a measly blog post on the internet from behind a computer?

Tell me what scares you in the comments. And tell me what you’re going to do about it.

If you enjoyed this article, imagine what would happen if someone were to extend it to 200+ pages, then make it slightly more awesome. This new book represents over six years’ worth of my life experiences, insights, and ideas on creating a better way of living for all of us: 

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.

In most cultures, people consider family to be the most important priority in their lives. People subject themselves to extreme sacrifices for the good of their family.

Go back far enough in our bloodlines, and we’re all family.

I wish we’d all think about that more often.

Let’s Talk About Peace

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Here’s something you may not know about me.

In the previous three generations of my family tree, I have ancestors that come from all twelve of the countries shown in the picture above, on four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. 

In layman’s terms, I’m a mutt.

For many years of my life, I didn’t even know that I was from most of these places. I didn’t even choose any of this; it was already decided for me the moment I was born in a hospital in Brooklyn. 

Usually, I don’t like talking about these things. I don’t like talking about this because it can put me in a box. 

But mostly, I don’t like talking about this because it really doesn’t matter. 

If I were to substitute out these twelve countries, and put in another twelve at random, would that change anything about who I really am? Would that change the content of my character? Would that make you more likely to love or hate me, because of something I did not choose?

Would that make me more worthy of being alive than anyone else?

Borders are nothing more than imaginary lines that were drawn on a map a long time ago, by people we’ve never met. They’re just an idea. They’re not real. Why should we give the people who created this idea the power to define who can and cannot be our friends? Shouldn’t we decide that for ourselves as individuals, and look past these false labels?

Tying our identities in with these imaginary group labels brings out the worst judgments in one another. All twelve of these countries I’m from certainly have some bad apples within them — thieves, rapists, and murderers. So when someone who is a part of one of these groups does something terrible, millions of people get mad at millions of other people, because we view one another through these illusory labels, and lump everyone together. Then, we fight back and forth to uphold the pride of the labels we’ve chosen.

We’re living in an era of great economic inequality. Many of the political decisions being made to escalate large-scale conflicts are created by 0.0000001% of the people within the groups we are choosing to identify with — to benefit themselves. 

And the saddest part of the whole thing is — by identifying with these groups, the rest of us are merely playing out the role of pawns within their twisted egotistical games. After all, we’re the ones criticizing, we’re the ones fighting, and we’re the ones killing one another. We are encouraged by the powers that be to hate people we don’t even know. In this rapidly degrading financial system we rely upon for our survival, war is one of the most profitable endeavors there is. And we’re the ones feeding the machine.

When we can see past these labels, we may realize that the group we were identifying with actually was doing some things that were really screwed up. And, we may realize that the group we were opposed to was doing some things that we actually agree with. But in order to see things objectively, we need to view it from outside the fray — as individuals. As global citizens looking to see things in the most fair light possible for everyone involved.

A label is just an idea; something we choose to identify with in our own minds. The moment we disassociate with a label, it loses the power it has over us. 

Underneath our clothes, we’re all naked.

Though I’ve grown up in the United States, I’ll be the first one to speak up when its political leaders abuse their power (as they often do) for the benefit of a few over the many; even at times when it is detrimental to my social relationships and career prospects. I don’t think being born in America makes me entitled to exploit anyone living anywhere else. 

I’ve got relatives in eleven other countries who may suffer if I don’t.

Go back far enough in our bloodlines, and we’re all family.

I wish we’d all take more time to think about that.

I’ve spent the past six plus years dedicated to uncovering how we can fix these problems. This is the blueprint I’ve come up with.

It’s All My Fault: How I Messed Up the World, and Why I Need Your Help to Fix It

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