Loss Changed Me, and You, Too

I went a long time without tragedy or loss in my life. Almost 40 years; how’s that for being lucky?

Sure, I had fights with friends, I lost grandparents, I saw friends of mine lose loved ones. All of that was somewhat detached or expected, so it was manageable.

Friends that I’ve known for many years have been through their own losses whether or not I was aware; surely they must have changed as a result. Some of those friends are very private, with well guarded emotions. Did they get that armor after suffering or was that part of their makeup all along? If something terrible happens to them, do they cope on their own time and put on a good or neutral face when out in the world? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I did that – stuffed it all in – with all of the mundane hurts and disappointments that came my way. I fought outward displays of emotion for many years, and still have a hard time with it. No one – NO ONE – got to see me cry in public. That was not OK. But then that changed.

Losing a close friend last fall, and then a beloved pet very suddenly over the holidays (where I felt at least partly culpable), and now another friend at a far younger age than is right or fair, changed me. The magnitude of those losses meant that the bottleneck had to give, and it has helped to not just show that “I’ve been crying all day” face in public but to reach out and ask for support from my wide network of friends and acquaintences. It really helps, despite any doubts I had.

What has changed in me?

Love.

I love more. I use that word more frequently. I used to think you can only use that word for someone you would step in front of a train for or devote your life to. Now I see that love is that big, and can be that powerful, but it is much more encompassing. Saying “I love you” to a friend takes nothing away from the big loves in my life like family or my partner.

All I can see for myself is that the more loved ones I lose, the more love I have and show. Of course, I’d not choose to lose anyone else. But loss clarifies emotion and helps to grow the bonds between the survivors and that is nothing but good.

The Way to Know Life is to Love Many Things

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Renting Your Job Is Easier Than Buying

Rent vs Own Image from IBM

Weirdly, from an IBM article about “renting” labor as consultants vs “buying” as full-time workers. But hey, it works for my purposes.

If you rent an apartment, you can pack up and move pretty much whenever. There’s no hassle to sell, no investment to recoup, no lawn to maintain or walls to paint. You. Just. Go.

So it is with employment, though it took the awesome James Altucher to point it out in an email:

“Oh, one [more] good thing about a job: you RENT the company, you don’t OWN the company.

In other words, you can leave any time you want. You don’t have to care about customers, shareholders, colleagues.” – James Altucher

Consider that your license to consider your daily life. If you are a business owner, you have responsibilities, which you likely took on willingly when you started the company. However, if you are NOT a business owner, you have SO MUCH FREEDOM you can barely comprehend. If you think you have no freedom, you are wrong. You have personal responsibilities, but you as an employee have zero working obligations. And in the state of New Mexico, that’s even more true as we have what’s called a “voluntary employment” law.

This means that every moment of every day that you work is completely voluntary, and every moment that you are being paid to come to work is completely voluntary by your employer. You can quit literally any time. And you can be fired anytime. There are no repercussions to this legally. It is liberating because you have only a sense of politeness forcing you to give those two weeks of notice. And if you are STILL employed, it probably means that the company likes you and they want to keep paying you rather than needing to hold on to you for some inconvenient red tape reason.

Rejoice, employees. Be free, if you want to be free.

Get What You Pay For: Reality Bites vs Awesome

This has to be the most perfectly concise summary of why it is sometimes/often/always a really freakin’ good idea to pay someone else to do something that you need done that THEY are good at doing:

“Wait, can’t I just <do that thing> myself, for free?”

Yes, you can. But you haven’t, and you never will. 

That thing can be anything. Building an exercise plan. Painting the house. Picking stocks. Researching a major purchase. Finding a great partner. Putting up your website. Negotiating business terms. Changing your car’s oil. Cooking healthy food. Going to the dentist. OK, OK, I guess you can’t literally outsource going to the dentist, but at least getting the appointment scheduled could be handled by someone else if you are prone to not doing it at all otherwise. The last part is key. It’s one thing to farm out tasks that you do get done, albeit slowly, to a faster operator. It’s another thing to hire out the tasks you will eventually get done but HATE doing (taxes!) just to take some stress off, if you can afford it.

But it is a whole new ballgame to recognize the things that need getting done if you are to get where you want to go that you simply will not do, based on your own history and knowledge of  yourself and your prioritization tendencies.

And that’s all for me for today, folks. I can’t put it any better than that. And yes, I might just pay the guy who wrote that to do what he does best so that I stop NOT doing that thing on my own time.

Artists Die of Exposure Every Day

Image courtesy of Art & Design Posted by GC Gabriela Cimpoaie

Artists? Who cares about those folks – they LOVE what they do and that’s all they need, right?

Consider a more inclusive definition of artist: someone who creates original works using their experience and, not incidentally, their brains. Now, as you can see, an artist can be:

  • writer
  • painter
  • logo designer
  • storyteller
  • sculptor
  • photographer
  • “content creator”

This last designation is the bane of working artists everywhere. The pain is captured well in a NY Times article by Tim Kreider, who says, “I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing.”

Kreider’s worked for 20 years as a writer, after being put through college by his parents. His sister also had college assistance through her medical training, but “as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.” Ouch.

One of the reactions to Kreider’s article was by Melinda Syzmanik (who happens to be a pretty nifty children’s book author, now on my radar!). Her blog post delves into the things she’s seen in her own career.

MY brother (George Feucht) is a photographer and cinematographer in his waking life, a well-trained and ridiculously talented professional. He’s asked to do free work all the time, from print publications to wedding photography for friends (usually not the friends who are also artists – they already get it). Let’s say you’re a pretty darn good exterminator with a fledgling business – you have customers but could use more. One of your acquaintences has a little squirrel problem, so they’re wondering if you could, “just swing by and take a look, thanks!” Most people would never ask this. And I hope that most exterminators, even if asked, would say, “No.” Or, “I charge $xx for new customers.”

Exterminator not enough of an example? How about your local dentist, the one that is more than happy to clean your teeth 3 times per year because they’re always looking for new referrals? Walk in there one day when you know they will be pretty empty, and promise a Yelp review for a cleaning. Try it at a restaurant. Try it with your corner hot-dog vendor, “Hey, dude – I just need one hot dog. I’ll walk back to work and tell my coworkers I got it from you!” Try it at a department store – the one that just posted a 3rd-quarter loss (so you *know* they can use business). You’d be more than willing to wear their store-brand clothing all over town just to give them more exposure.

Now how does it sound?

Depending on YOU, depending on the exact circumstances, doing work for free could be beneficial (see Ann Rea’s post). But those circumstances are pretty rare, if you do the math. If an editor called me up and said, “hey, could you write a piece for Runner’s World / Oprah / Time Magazine?” that’s pretty much a big fat NO. However, what if it were a much more targeted audience that could net me immediate benefits? The New Yorker? The New York Times Sunday Magazine? That would take more careful consideration. I already have books I can plug and link to, so that helps. And, if some publication with excellent eyeballs asked to republish something I’ve already put the time into and been paid for – THAT might not be a waste of time.

Ultimately, Mike Peterson sums it up pretty well in his blog post written with the perspective of getting experience in the world (read: growing up):

At 19, I told a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet that, while I didn’t get paid for my work on the campus humor magazine, it was a chance to see my name in print.

He replied, “When I want to see my name in print, I look in the phone book.”

Preventative Care in Three Parts

Real food.

Preventative care: what is it? If I may be so bold, this is it:

  1. sleep hygiene *(see below for more details)
  2. walking around a lot, some of it outside
  3. eat “ingredients”, not manufactured food products

In other words . . . IT DOESN’T COST MONEY. On this list there is not a single supplement or class or equipment to purchase. There are no prescriptions, no chiropractors, no weight loss gurus.

Many systems that thrive in our modern society are those that make money. And those that make money, often spend money on ways to make more money. Diet research and food palatability studies are full of money from both weight loss companies as well as food manufacturers. Vitamins must have paid research to back up their effectiveness (which, incidentally, is somewhere between “negative” and “zero”).

But getting out in the sun, going to bed at a reasonable hour *(between sunset and midnight, without looking at artificial light or glowing screens for at least an hour prior, not using sleeping pills or alcohol, sleeping in a dark room, and rising naturally), and eating things that can be (recently) harvested or killed – ALL of it is kind of simple and doesn’t cost money aside from buying the food ingredients.

Progressive lets you put a dohickey in your car to prove that you don’t drive too fast or brake hard and therefore deserve cheaper insurance. Why couldn’t health insurance companies do the same, strapping Fitbit Force or Withings Pulse or Nike Fuelband on the willing so see how much they get around in a day and how much they sleep? Perhaps someone is already on this. They should be.