Tag Archives: Tim Ferriss

How Do you Beat the Fear of the Unknown? Suggestions Anyone?

Jammie in a helicopter right before we got engaged on a snow-capped mountain top in Northern California. I was super nervous:)

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” This was a question Jammie and I asked ourselves over and over again as we planned the biggest move we had ever made. We were planning to give up perfectly good jobs during a horrible economic time and an even worse hiring environment.

The Dream

For what? The open road. The grand experiment. One year, four cities (all starting with “B” – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bombay (Mumbai)), three months each.

As explained a couple posts ago in “We Have Quit Our Jobs to Travel the World”, this was a very deliberate choice. A conscious lifestyle 180. We had wanted to do it for a long time but every time we got close to doing it, we backed out.

When we finally took action and decided to just go for it, we still struggled with our fear of the unknown. How would all this turn out? Would we be OK? Was all this a mistake? These were tough questions with no good answer.

The Ultimate Disaster

To avoid future ulcers, we decided to picture the ultimate disaster, the worst case scenario and decide how we would deal with that. We figured that picturing the worst-case scenario might be the best place to start.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7d/Question_opening-closing.svg/200px-Question_opening-closing.svg.png

Source: Wikipedia

Here were some of our doomsday scenarios:

1) We tell everyone we are doing on our trip and then for some reason, we can’t leave California – it’s super embarrassing and we have to tell people the trip is off.

2) We quit our jobs and some major unforeseen expense hits and we end up broke, crying in some abandoned Bangkok alley.

3) We get some horrible disease far away from home without access to the medical care we need.

4) We realize that instead of being an incredible epiphany and the amazing lifestyle design experiment we had envisioned, we hate our new life and decide we have made the worst decision ever.

Even putting those scenarios in writing was difficult!

Fear-setting

In spelling out our doomsday scenarios, we were actually following some good advice from lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss. He calls it “fear-setting”.

In his first book, The Four Hour Workweek, he says that before taking off on his own transformational trip he asked himself “Why don’t I decide exactly what my nightmare would be – the worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip?…”

Tim says “As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasn’t as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started to think of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once.”

What he also noticed was that on a scale of 1 to 10 “1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4″ whereas his “best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario… would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect”.

Discovery: the Positive Potential FAR Outweighs the Chance of Disaster

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looking at the bright side...

 

Jammie and I found the same to be true in our situation. We could rebound from all the above worst case scenarios, regroup and be OK in the long term. Sure, each of the above would be a major setback. But if we responded strongly to any of our doomsday scenarios, we would probably recover. Just because there was risk involved did not mean that we should avoid going on the trip.

And the positive potential was huge: we would fulfill our dream of traveling, living and working internationally while doing some good for other people.

Even better news was that the chances of us achieving the positive potential of our experimental year were far greater than the chances of our worst-case scenarios taking place. Put this way, deciding to go on our 1-year trip was a far easier decision. This just had to be done.

What’s scary is staying the same –

The only genuinely scary thing would have been to do nothing. To let more years pass on the hamster wheel without aggressively pursuing the dream. By giving in to the feeling of unease about change, that vague fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, we would have given up on a chance for something better in life.

How about you? How do you handle the fear of the unknown? I am sure Jammie and I could learn from you. Leave a comment with your best tip for beating the fear of the unknown.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

Five Time Wasters To Shut Down

Source: techcrunch.com via Anish on Pinterest

 

OK, thanks again goes out to my pal Vishnu, the blogger behind the new and amazing Vishnu’s Virtues (a blog on spirituality and overcoming challenges) for the last two posts.

And now back to Lifestyle Design.  For those who are reading this without the context of my last two posts, check out “The Bald Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible” (a full-scale condemnation of rat race sellouts) and “Why Travel Should be Mandatory” (the title sums this post up).

Just as a reminder, Lifestyle Design, as defined by bestselling author and blogger Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek & The 4-Hour Body), is a way of life that values time and mobility over autopiloted accumulation of wealth and selling out to the 9-5 rat race where most people work in meaning-deprived careers for the best parts of their lives in order to get by, saving retirement for the very end.

We have dealt with how important travel (or mobility) is in Lifestyle Design but today we are looking at the value of time.  Using time correctly is critical.  If we blindly accumulate by selling out to the rat race then we, at best, will have money but very little time in which to enjoy life.  This is obviously totally ridiculous.  Relationships, health and other critical indicators of quality of life plummet and we are left with the scraps at 65 when we retire.  Hardly the savvy, global do-gooding we strive for on CultureMutt! At the end of the rat race when we are no longer able to continue, we are sent off with a muted office “party” at Applebees and an engraved pen thanking us for our service.  What a miserable way to go!!

Life does not have to go this way, we have the choice to make far better use of our time.  In order to do so though, we have to actively avoid certain time wasters.  Here’s a start on a list of them:

Well-Meaning Sellouts

There is never any shortage of these guys.  They have been slaves to the system for so long that they cannot picture life outside the punch-in / punch-out mentality where life is mundane and you just kinda have to endure it until you get to retire and then do very little more until you kick the bucket.  These types counsel you to “pay your dues”.  They sit around and compare potbellies and talk Nascar.  They are slowly dying.  They are not bad people but they are not making much of a dent in anything meaningful, just their outdated La-Z-Boys.  Don’t take their advice.  It is short-sighted at best.  You will waste your life on a “company man/woman” philosophy which no longer works today if what you want is a happy life. 

Easily-Threatened “Friends”

We each have these friends in our lives. If you mention travel, a radically different career or anything vaguely ambitious that breaks from the norm, they automatically get on the defensive.  They try to cover for their own lethargy by putting you down with false praise or questions like, “are you done trying to be a traveler?” or “when are you going to get a real job?”  Leave these alone in their miserable little worlds.  They are life saps.  Fire them as you would these guys.

Low-Achieving Communities

Society can be a major weight on your life.  When those around you are not succeeding and are satisfied with less, the temptation is do so yourself.  What is it about the status quo that is so seductive?  Get off it.  There is no strength in numbers.  Everyone that has escaped the “destiny” that society has for them knows not to put too much stock in the perceptions and attitudes of those in their immediate surroundings unless they want to stay right there.  Be the gutsy one that breaks from the norm.

Yourself

I will confess to being a self-sabotager at times.  I talk myself out of doing things based on moods and temporary motivation levels.  Recognize that energy levels are cyclical and that you do not have the time or existential luxury to listen to yourself when the inner voice is being negative and defeatist.  You deserve better than that.  There is a better version of yourself out there.  Relentlessly pursue him or her.  You don’t have the time to do otherwise.

“Reality”

This is a tough one as well.  Being “realistic” can stop you doing something remarkable and meaningful.  Cynics are quick to tell you to be “realistic” when you talk about big plans.  What I typically do is look at the person who is giving me advice before I decide how to take it.  Are they the kind of person I want to spend my time trying to emulate?  Or are they just licking their wounds and sulking about reality and their lot in their small little corner.  Reality is what you make it.  It is not dictated to you, you dictate it.

My thoughts on Lifestyle Design are definitely evolving.  I would love your thoughts on the above.  I realize I’ve been harsh on a number of issues.  But I feel like I have reason to be harsh.  Boundaries need to be drawn with time wasters.  Nuff sed.

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Bjorn Karlman

Why Travel Should be Mandatory

 

Here’s my Part II on Lifestyle Design.  To recap my last post, I am taking the Tim Ferriss definition of Lifestyle Design and fully embracing this quote from the 4-Hour Workweek:

“Gold is getting old.  The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan (living the rat race until retirement and then trying to live it up when you are old and wrinkly) and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.  This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD).”

For this post you’ll have to allow me to be absolutely dogmatic about the mobility element in Lifestyle Design.  Here’s something I believe with every fiber of my being:  Travel should be required of every able-bodied person on earth.

Here’s why:

It is one of the best ways to gain perspective

Travel is one of the best ways I know to hit the reset button in life.   Being away from the familiar and mundane, being exposed to new things is like an injection of objectivity for your life.  As soon as the plane leaves the tarmac I am able to sever contact with my day-to-day life for a while and reflect on what is going well and what isn’t.  It is very liberating.  Some important decision making and fat cutting can happen when I leave it all behind for a while.  Try it.

It does not cost a lot of money – lack of funds CANNOT be an excuse

Here’s the thing:  You do not need to be rich to travel.  To experience the beauty of travel you don’t need to go far.  A simple relocation will do.  Go to a different town and walk around.  Sit in a cafe and think.  Meditate.  Drink in the differences.  Even overseas travel doesn’t have to be pricey.  There are volumes of books written for the budget traveler.  There are options for heavily discounted travel and free accommodation.  Stop making excuses for yourself.  You can do this.  It is not that difficult.  You can travel in style for WAY less that you are spending per month in your apartment… but that is another post.

It is the antidote to small-mindedness. 

It is impossible not to have your perspective grow from travel.  Most of the narrow-minded people you meet are people that never experience the education of travel.  They don’t want to be reminded of the fact that they are from a very little pond.  They can’t deal with different rules.  Different ideas.  New ways of seeing things.  Don’t join the ranks of these ostriches, burrowing their heads in the sands of provincial oblivion.  You can do better.

It teaches the value of experience

Experience is a currency that not a lot of wealthy people are rich in.  Often, those that have prioritized accumulation of wealth and traditional careers have sacrificed time and attention for these status symbols of yesterday. Experiences are a far more valuable currency than cold cash.  Experiences are what we remember.  Experiences cannot be bought.  They are forged through the correct use of time.  They require courageous decisions to embrace better priorities.

It shows other ways of being human

One of the best things about travel is the fact that it exposes you to other cultures that show you ways of life that can be extremely valuable.  Travel allows you to learn from these cultures and incorporate them into your own lifestyle.  You can treat world cultures like a buffet – you get to pick and choose the best of the best.  Some of the most interesting people out there are people that have successfully fused the highlights of a several cultural traditions.  They are CultureMutts:)

It makes you a better person

It is hard to travel and not be edified by the process.  It is often a spiritual experience to be on the trail.  Life as usual is life on autopilot – not particularly enlightening or challenging.  It is lazy living.  Don’t settle for this.  Determine to grow.  Determine to become better.  Determine to travel.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

The Bald Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible

I am not sure why this quote from Tim Ferriss has had such an effect on me over the years, but it has:

“There have been several points in my life… at which I saw my future as another fat man in a midlife-crisis BMW.  I simply looked at those who were 15-20 years ahead of me on the same (professional) track… and it scared the hell out of me.”

This passage from “The 4-Hour Workweek” is one of the most motivating I have come across in current lifestyle lit.

Whenever I feel like my priorities are off or I am making bad long-term decisions I try to project out 20 years or so and think about what will happen if I continue life like this:

Boring Job – Will I be stuck in a mind-numbing job?  A close friend of mine just graduated from law school last weekend.  We had some downtime after the commencement ceremony and were talking about what motivated our generation relative to what motivated that of our parents.

We decided (perhaps unfairly) that whereas our parents’ generation had money as their main motivator when it came to professional life, our motivators were more lifestyle driven.

For example, if you wanted to recruit our parents’ generation when they were young professionals you could lock them in by promising to double their income.  That, while still attractive, would not go as far with our generation which would likely prefer a 50% increase in income, two weeks of additional paid vacation and the option to work from home.

More importantly, Gen Y professionals crave meaning in their work lives.  THAT is why the bald, fat man in the red BMW scares the crap out of us.  We don’t want to be corporate automatons.

Ridiculous Mortgage – As the options of mobile living and worldwide travel/work become more and more of a reality today, home ownership (with the recent memory of home values plummeting insanely) is less and less of a draw.  Why tie yourself down to one location?  Why sign yourself up for the golden handcuffs of an awful (yet well-paid) job just to pay the mortgage for a house that you have long-since come to resent despite its square footage?

Estranged Spouse and Kids – If there were ever a thing that the boomers proved conclusively, it is the fact that their obsession with work and materialism ruined families.  Time away from home skewed priorities and the Western epidemic of workaholism has added up to a lifestyle where relationships that should matter, don’t.  The result is the most dysfunctional set of family dynamics on record.

Overworked – Allow me to continue on the subject of workaholism. An entrepreneur friend of mine with a lot of physician friends says that he hears the same thing over and over:  “How do I get out of the rat race?  I want out!”  These doctors, while well paid, fully realize that if they stop working their 12 hour days, shuttling patients in and out of their offices, the game is over, no moolah.  So they are trapped.  And they hate it.

Obese – When you take on boomer work values you also take on their tendency to be obese.  Part of what’s so scary about the guy in the red BMW is that, despite his status symbol, he is a chunkster.  Nobody is impressed.  And worse yet, the rat race is only going to make it worse.  The downward spiral of horrible lifestyle decisions, fueled by comfort food, late hours, terrible relationship and anti-depressants is a heart attack waiting to happen.  We need something new.

Savvy, global do-gooding

We each have an opportunity to define this “new” lifestyle.  My goals behind CultureMutt are to help contribute to this conversation about a healthier, more compassionate, more exciting, more globally-minded lifestyle.  We need to get intentional about savvy, global do-gooding.  What is the cost of a little experimentation when the “norm” is the rat race and nobody healthy enjoys it?

Another Tim Ferriss quote:

“Gold is getting old.  The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.  This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD).”

Stay tuned, the next couple posts will be about Lifestyle Design.

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Bjorn Karlman

The Case for Rest

I can never let too many posts go by before re-declaring my Tim Ferriss über fan status.  I devoured his two books, the 4-Hour Workweek and the 4-Hour Body and I love his blog.  So imagine my state of fanboy amazement as, while innocently scanning my Twitter “Must Reads” list, I came across a tweet from Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg and this awesome new ratings app, Oink among other things) announcing the latest in a series of monthly interviews with tech superstars, called Foundation.  I clicked on his link and, instead of watching his latest interview, I went straight to the one with his bud Tim Ferriss.  I’d never seen such a quality interview with Tim.  There were several excellent parts but it started to get VERY interesting towards 48:00.

Kevin Rose:  “How do you find that balance between wanting to be really driven and an entrepreneur… at the same time remembering that you have an awesome family that you should be spending time with that isn’t getting any younger?”

Tim Ferriss:  “I set Saturday very strictly for me… I try to regain perspective on Saturdays.. I really try to open no computers on a Saturday.. I don’t have email set up on my iPhone, I don’t want to see the notifications.. I try to make a point of calling my family every Saturday.. it’s tough man… I mean time is really fleeting.. it is really, really staggeringly terrifying how time accelerates as you get older.. it’s really terrifying.”

Don’t worry, this is not me trying to proselytize as a Seventh-day Adventist.  Religious belief aside, I was fascinated that someone that is as famously productive as Tim Ferriss, is a quasi fundamentalist about setting aside 24 hours for rejuvenation.  Nobody I’ve come across has quite the same reverence for time and the proper use of it, as Tim Ferriss.  That is one of the main reasons I am so fascinated with his work.  I know that I’ve got a very finite span of time in which to make my impact on society and I listen to those who help me maximize my stabs at savvy, global do-gooding.  Check out the interview and hit me up with your thoughts in the comments.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

 

Please Vote for Me!! A Post of Near-Delirious Excitement

You cannot BELIEVE how excited I am.  I am going to break from the norm here on CultureMutt and ask you to PLEASE vote for me  (scroll down on the linked page and you’ll see my name listed). Why?

Jammie and I are giddy wth excitement!

Because Tim Ferriss, the TOP 1000 Blogger / New York Times Bestselling Author whom I look up to HUGELY, just shortlisted me from a group of about 300 fundraisers and I am now in the final group of 5 to be considered for a Round-the-World-Trip.

I could not believe that I had been shortlisted, it took a friend from Atlanta giving me the heads-up on Facebook for me to go and check the results.

It gets even better.  Even if I don’t win the RTW ticket, I still have a 3 out of 5 chance to be listed as one of 10 fundraisers that helped bring in $20,000 for one of three schools (with Tim’s matching gift the total raised will be $60,000 and his combined efforts will therefore build three schools) that are being built through the organization Room to Read.

Just over two weeks ago, on July 31st, I wrote What Really Matters to You, a post that helped to start get the ball rolling in terms of my own fundraising for the cause.  I explained that, in line with CultureMutt’s pursuit of “savvy, global do-gooding” I was supporting Tim Ferriss who

is absolutely one of the “architects of positive change” that I aim to emulate and write about.  He’s turning 34 and instead of b-day presents he’s asking people to donate to Room to Read – World Change Starts with Educated Children that, among other things, builds libraries in Asia and Africa.  His post invites readers to give to the cause and includes the hook that if you give and spread the word… he’ll include you in a drawing for a free round-the-world air ticket:

I ended up doing a ton of online promotion which you can read about on the voting page.  The result was that I made the cut and was listed as one of Tim’s top 5 promoters.  Tim’s readers are now voting on the best commenter/promoter out of the five shortlisted contestants.

I am trying to keep this post short and to the point but, once again, I would REALLY appreciate your vote.  My wife Jammie and I have already committed to visiting at least one of the schools/libraries that will be built as a result of this fundraising, regardless of whether I win or not.  But how much fun would it be to win!

The voting link  (look for the voting section at the bottom of Tim’s post)

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Bjorn Karlman

What REALLY matters to you?

Before I get to the punch line…

“What kind of a life do you want to look back upon?”  Whenever I struggle with decisions or prioritizing, this question or some variant of it, typically helps lift the mist.  I often force myself to imagine that I am in my 80s or so, looking back at my life’s collection of relationships, accomplishments, failures, adventures and other experiences.

I have a number of reasons that I do this.  For years I have decided to take the advice of self-development writer Stephen Covey and “Begin with the End in Mind.”  It helps me realize what is important as opposed to what is “urgent”.

But there’s more.  Forcing myself to think about what kind of a life I want to look back upon somehow makes my dreams and extravagant goals seem more doable, more achievable.  I am not so sure why.  Maybe it’s mind manipulation but somehow, visualizing accomplishment makes it seem easier to pull off.  I am less intimidated by my bigger goals and I feel more empowered and enlightened about the day-to-day things that need doing.  This kind of reflection also helps me realize when I have an opportunity to do something above and beyond for someone else.

The point behind CultureMutt

As the “About” section states, “Live generously” is CultureMutt’s most basic mantra… It is all about savvy, global do-gooding…   CultureMutt will help you understand global cultures and politics in the context of the powerful forces for good that are being unleashed daily by creative, cosmopolitan do-gooders the world over.  These social innovators are brilliant people that are architects of positive change. CultureMutt is all about celebrating their creations and brainstorming ideas for how to build on them.  It will show you how to join this tribe of ambitious game changers.”

An opportunity to give to something that really matters

Today, as I was working my way through the latest creations of my favorite bloggers, I came across this Tim Ferriss post (yes, I am a fan of preposterous proportions” : “My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)”   Tim is absolutely one of the “architects of positive change” that I aim to emulate and write about.  He’s turning 34 and instead of b-day presents he’s asking people to donate to Room to Read – World Change Starts with Educated Children that, among other things, builds libraries in Asia and Africa.  His post invites readers to give to the cause and includes the hook that if you give and spread the word according to the conditions below, he’ll include you in a drawing for a free round-the-world air ticket:

No later than 11:59pm PST this Sunday, July 31st:
– Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my library page.
– Leave a comment below telling me what you did (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail blast, add to your e-mail signature, encourage employees/friends to do the same, etc.). Measurement of any type gets huge bonus points.
– Lastly, answer the following question at the top of your comment: “What does education mean to you?”

Yes, if you are like me, the RTW air is a great incentive.  But the cause is even more compelling.  I am absolutely convinced that lack of education contributes heavily to our biggest problems world wide.  Literacy seriously makes a difference since it allows for education and self-improvement.  Libraries are an absolutely vital service for a community.  And Tim is putting his money where his mouth is.  Each library costs $20,000 to build and Tim will match $20,000 brought in by donations with $20,000 of his own money.  The charity stresses sustainability, guaranteeing that the libraries “will also benefit from three years of librarian training and on-going support from Room to Read. Most importantly, over 6 million children in Asia and Africa will have access to life-changing educational resources”

So please do what you can for this project.  You and I choose to live generously by making small daily moves like the decision to give here.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

 

The Timing is Never Right

me proposing to Jammie... a big move that could not wait:)

Are you sitting on a big decision right now?  Are you putting it off because it is just a little too scary?  It probably has the potential to change your life, right?  A choice between jobs.  The question of whether to go back to school.  The decision of whether or not to get married.  It’s intimidating.  And often the excuse that you and I give ourselves for putting it off is timing.  We convince ourselves that a little more time will somehow improve our set of life circumstances, that we will be wiser or the future will be clearer if we just wait a little longer.

And yes, this can be true at times.  But more often than not, immediate action is your answer.  Don’t put your life on hold any more.  As Tim Ferriss, in his lifestyle design rhetoric stresses, The timing is never right.  There will never be a better time to start living a courageous life.  It is time for us to DO something.  As CultureMutt is about savvy, global do-gooding, this post will focus on beating timing related stalling over big life decisions.

Acknowledge the fear

Each time I decided to do something unconventional involving international relocation I have had to face my own fears.  Am I just escaping?  Will I fall behind everyone else?  What if I fail at my assignment / language learning / relationship building?  Do I have what it takes?  Will I lose my friendships at home?  These questions are scary because they deal with the unknown and because they address the possibility of failure.  What I have found each time is that none of these questions are unhelpful in themselves.  They are worth asking and it is important to work out contingency plans and to face any adventure with the right mindset – as an adventure of growth rather than as a cowardly escape.  But the fact that these are valid questions does not mean that you should spend forever agonizing over them.  Don’t put off these questions for a “better time”.  Feel the fear, deconstruct it by writing down answers to the scary questions and talking the fear over with friends.  But DO NOT let it slow you down.

Face your worst-case scenario

How bad would it be if the worst thing possible took place?  There are always dangers and perils that threaten you.  Picture yourself living the worst-case scenario.  More often than not, the disaster scenario still leaves you with a pulse, correct?  Delaying your life over timing dilemmas WILL NOT HELP.  In reality, calm steps and smart thinking would allow you to dig yourself out of your potential mess.  On the other hand, the blue sky scenario or even an average result of your big bold step can often pay off huge.  I often think of famous people that made risky decisions that paid off.  I imagine how they processed the risks – their fears and doubts.  And then I think about what they would do in my shoes.  I am often a little embarrassed when I realize how much more bold they would be, living a day in my life.

Make decisions in your happy place

Hands-down one of my best decision making periods is the cool-down period after a run.  I currently have a little stress-busting routine that I indulge in several times a week – I run out to my local airport (just over 2 miles) and then I walk back.  The run out helps me build up a sweat and mull over frustrations and fears.  And the cool down period on the walk home is this period of extreme clarity when I think better than I have all day – it is as if a mental haze lifts and I am able to dream big and make bold decisions.  I trust the decisions I make directly after runs a lot more than I trust decisions made out of the aggravations of the everyday grind.  Find what works for you and make your decisions about overseas relocation, service and travel from a happy, relaxed, endorphin-charged place. Make courageous decisions, not jaded, tired, procrastination-laden ones.

Take tiny steps in the right direction

One of my best friends and I attracted a lot of eye rolling a few years back when we came up with what we called the “non-negotiables”.  We each came up with a list of things we HAD to do every week day.  I think my list (which included things like “go running”, “study Mandarin”, “start learning to play the piano”, etc) translated to 5-7 hours of work a day, on top of my full-time job.  Some of it was fun.  I was living in a grimy part of Hollywood at the time but I would go running on a four mile loop that included the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  But the crazy hours and sleep deprivation soon caught up with us.  We tried to help each other out – my buddy showed me some of the piano basics and I helped him with his French vocab but within a couple weeks when another friend asked us about the non-negotiables, my buddy summed up our progress with, “well they’ve become a little more negotiable.”

Looking back, the deliberate steps toward self-improvement were not the problem but the required steps were too big.  Whenever I’ve forced myself to take small yet intentional steps towards a goal, it has paid off though.  Little steps can be taken now, you don’t have to wait for the “right timing”.  Take the step and accomplish something!

Track your efforts

Lately I’ve become a tracking nerd.  I’ve noticed that tracking almost anything means that you will do better and better at it.  I track how much I run, how often I post on CultureMutt and how much I weigh among other things.  Seeing the numbers does something very valuable – it makes me compete against myself.  Where previously I’ve been putting things off out of fear, now I am constantly trying to best yesterday’s efforts at achieving the goal.  It is fun and it is satisfying – especially because it allows me to see my own progress over time.

Decide right now that the time is right for you to start living your generous, intentional, international life.  We each have it in us to move past timing-related excuses to the courageous, fulfilling life of action that lies ahead.

 

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Bjorn Karlman

 

 

“Do I Make Enough Money?” and Other Questions Ryan Holiday Could Care Less About

 

Meet a really unique blogger that I’ve been lucky enough to correspond with lately:

Ryan Holiday – I first stumbled across him through Tim Ferriss’s blog Experiments in Lifestyle Design.  The guy is super interesting.  He is 24, was the Marketing Director for American Apparel but left his position and is currently at work writing a book in New Orleans and, in his own words “I’m trying to stay holed up in libraries and dark rooms so I can get this thing finished … I’m in the Garden District.”

Walking from Success

What is interesting to me about Ryan Holiday is the level of success that he has been exposed to as a guy in his early 20’s: “I’ve seen my work written about in every major publication I can think of. I’ve been offered two book opportunities and turned them down. I ran one of the biggest and earlier Groupon deals. I’ve traveled. Met with important people. Been humiliated and learned from mistakes. Had power, used power, observed powered. And at the end of it, all I could think was: so…”

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

He’s not particularly interested in money:  “Anyway, here I am at 24. Not close to the millionaire I naively promised myself years ago I’d be by the time I was 25. But I do have more than I know what to do with. And thanks to Philosophy I can’t see myself realistically chasing that goal very hard anymore. Because when you figure out what is important to you in life, you can throw out all the rest. You can stop chasing ghost and shadows and illusions. You can lean on what is real and what is necessary. And you can laugh and pity those can’t. You can realize, as Seneca wrote, that too often they ‘win’ at the cost of life.”

Regaining Control

I wanted to know more about this really anti-materialistic bent so I left a comment:  ” I am intrigued by your love of philosophy and your very obvious determination to regain control of life by “dropping out”, trimming down and focusing on the very core of what is meaningful to you. Do you think that this core that you can “lean on” , the “real” and the “necessary” is found within you or in something else… a transcendent element of some kind. I don’t necessarily have a fixed answer and I resist the pat replies to this kind of questioning.”

He wrote me back:  “I think it’s both. It’s reducing things to their essence–that which is real. And within yourself, focusing on what you can control (say, your attitude about events rather than the events themselves) and worrying only about that.”

Not Fronting

Ryan doesn’t seem to parade as someone he is not.  I got really interested in his most recent post on pain and so wrote a very wordy comment.  His reply?  “Those kind of questions are best left to people much smarter and better with language than I.”  I like this guy.

I’ve subscribed to updates on his reading list and I know he is a big fan of the Stoic philosophers, especially Seneca.  So I wrote him less than an hour ago: “I’m about to head to Barnes & Noble to buy something good (don’t know what yet) on or by Seneca. What should I start with?”

“On the Shortness of Life is good (but very short). Penguin’s Letters from a Stoic is what I started with.”  Cool… maybe future future CultureMutt posts will have more of a stoic flavor to them… I’ll keep you updated.

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Bjorn Karlman

 

Everything Popular is Wrong

Yabusame – Tim Ferriss from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.

For all the books I’ve read on work-life balance and crafting an ideal existence, no author has caught my attention quite the way Tim Ferriss did when I finally bought his first book in 2008.   I’d spent months laughing it off because of its ridiculous-sounding title: The 4-Hour Workweek. One day when my curiosity got the best of me I picked up the book and started reading.  I finished it quickly.

The 4-Hour Workweek turned out to be the closest thing I’d found to a liberation manifesto for over-worked office-bound yuppies who have a sick sense that life is slipping away as they sip lukewarm coffee at directionless committee meetings.  Tim Ferris’s core concept is what he calls “Lifestyle Design”.  What it boils down to is the need to define the ideal lifestyle (read: liberation from 9-5) and then, using the tools in the book (near-fanatical decluttering, starting your own automated income stream, etc), to achieve personal goals that he encourages readers to set unrealistically high.

His logic for such ambition?  “Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic… It’s lonely at the top.  Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre.  The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time-and energy consuming…. Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal.”

I love Tim Ferriss.  I could spend the post trying to sell you on him but I want to focus in on some of the key principles that I like best and that I think best support the idea of putting an unusually strong emphasis on the importance of service in life.  The idea starts with his quoting Oscar Wilde (in The Importance of Being Earnest):  “Everything popular is wrong.”  From this starting point Tim builds a case for challenging commonly-held assumptions and the arbitrary crap that convention and “the way things have always been done” tend to force upon us.

His first rule for those that choose to join him in bucking convention, is “Retirement is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance”… “It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life.  This is a nonstarter-nothing can justify that sacrifice.” I love this insistence on creating a life that can be fully enjoyed in the here and now rather than sacrificing everything for a pot of gold at 65.

Tim Ferris defines laziness as “to endure a non-ideal existence, to let circumstance or others decide life for you, or to amass a fortune while passing through life like a spectator from an office window.”  This resonates with me on a very fundamental level.  My parents were idealists who gave up financially lucrative work opportunities to work as missionaries in Africa and Asia for over 10 years.  Growing up in Asia with parents that were very intentional in choosing what they felt was the “ideal existence” while rejecting life lived from a sanitized office window certainly had an effect on me.  I definitely agree with Tim Ferris that just following what most do, going with what numbers define as popular, is a mistake.  It is life on cruise control – bland, lifeless and over-processed.

But what am I doing personally to reject crippling convention and embrace a life of intentional service?  This blog is one of my first steps.  I also took two years out of my life to work on service projects. The first time I was 16 and I left my family to work on service projects in the Philippines and Sweden.  The second was a year I spent working for an international school in the UK.  As a result of these two lifestyle experiments I developed a taste for nonprofit work. It has soul.

What about you? What are your ideas for rejecting the norm in favor of a life of service? If you are up for looking at unconventional ways to live a fuller life, I am excited to share ideas with you over the coming months as CultureMutt takes a close look at social innovators and service junkies that all have in common rejecting convention in favor of savvy, global do-gooding.

Bjorn Karlman

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