Filtering out what matters
What do you have without your health? Five questions to ask yourself everyday. The optionality of life. Using time and boredom to guide your decisions.
11:58pm — Shit.
1:09am — Shit.
2:14am — Shit.
3:27am — Shit.
4:44am — Shit.
I started tracking how many times I’d visited the toilet during the night by messaging myself “Shit.”
That morning Brooke and I talked about her upcoming streak of working 10-days in a row. I told her that sucked and she agreed. I’d reveal more about the conversation but I can’t remember much. My insides were going weapons hot and distracted me to the point of committing little to memory.
Did you know symptoms of the typical campylobacter infection take 2–5 days to appear and can last 1–10 days?
Well, while sitting opposite Brooke, the handful of campylobacter in my gut were reaching the end of their 2-5 days.
I stared at the pale blue wall and laughed. We became friends. Me and the pale blue wall and the 84 orange tiles (not my colour choice) on my bathroom floor.
Look at me, I thought. A man who claims to take care of their health and now struck down by a cluster of bacteria cells.
My routine became: bed, sweat, toilet, fluid, bed, sweat, toilet, bed, sweat, toilet, fluid. Plus a few painkillers every four hours and a single dose of wondering why the neighbours are up at 3:00am.
Being wrapped up in a fever has its benefits though. Laying in bed for 72-hours straight gives you plenty of time to think.
And what you’re about to read are thoughts I collected in between visits to the toilet.
Recall the last time you were sick.
What’d you miss?
Compare that to when you’re feeling well.
Laying in my cushioned prison, all those things I thought were important faded fast.
Dinners with the family, walking with my dogs, walking full stop, those were the things I thought of. I told myself, when I’m better, I’ll go for a walk with Dad, when I’m better, I’ll cook dinner for the family.
A healthy person wants 10,000 things, a sick person wants one.
2 questions, then 3
Start every day with two questions:
- Who am I?
- What kind of life do I want to live?
Answer those and follow up with:
- What can I learn today?
- What can I create today?
- Who can I love today?
Here, I’ll go first.
What can I learn today?
I’ve got an article to write. I can use it to figure out what matters to me. If I’m stuck, I’ll take walks and let the words write themselves (writing is 95% walking, 5% writing).
What can I create today?
I can put my thoughts into stone. Carve my ideas into the blank page and show it to others later. I’m a writer, so that’s what I do. I wrote a poem when I started to feel better, I’ll show it to you soon.
Who can I love today?
I’ll start with myself. Selfish? Perhaps. But when I love myself, it gives me energy to love others.
Why these questions?
What a life you could live if you woke up every morning, stared at the ceiling and thought: Who am I? What kind of life so I want to live? What can I learn today? What can I create today? Who can I love today? Your life would turn into a work of art.
And who doesn’t want that? Ho ho, I do. Yes, yes, yes.
Life as Art.
But what about money?
Money will come. Answer these questions authentically and follow through with your answers and money will come. Every time I answer these questions and follow through, money finds me.
What is money after all? It’s societies agreed upon way of value exchange. If you create value for others, money is only one of many forms of compensation.
In the night when you’ve learned, you’ve created, you’ve loved, stare into the dark and reflect:
- What did I create today?
- What did I learn today?
- Who did I love today?
Even if you don’t have answers the practice of asking the questions will change your life. Answers close doors, questions open them.
On the edge
From the first step it felt right
It’s been like that the past few times
Choked up inside before feet on the pavement
Closed space to open space, what we’re all looking for...
Strapped to a bed
More visits to the toilet than phone calls from friends
A few bacteria cells really know how to show a man what he’s made of
My feet hit the park and the shoes come off
Around the grass I get suspicious I might know the guy up top so I turn my head and keep walking,
sorry pal, this one’s for me
I think about sitting under the tree,
the one I told May,
my favourite tree,
I pass and watch the kids play cricket
A tall one rips the ball in a little too far to the right, he see’s that I saw,
I give him a nod and he looks the other way as if I’m a stranger,
with the dreams I’ve been having, he might be onto something
Down on one knee a coach tells his team what’s what,
a battle plan worthy of salute
I decide there’s more to this and keep going
Past the library with the rainbow art which warms my heart
Across the four way
A piece of trash costs me a few zig zags up the hill
but I don't mind
Another seat calls my name but I close my ears
my hips loosening
And I've found my cure
At the top of the stairs I see it all
another person I might know
I move toward the hill, my favourite hill
go up and my lungs remind me I'm at the top,
on the edge of the cliff
I find a tree root and sit
The wind picks up and fills my shirt like a balloon
I could almost cry
but I laugh instead, a deep belly laugh
The King is back
and all of my wealth
I could reach out and kiss it,
whisper in its ear,
say welcome back,
to my health.
“How do I start my own business?”
The modern equivalent of what “what treasure can I hunt?”
Spoke to a young man, Tom, only a couple of years younger than me, look at me pretending like I’m old and wise. Hah.
Tom just finished university and they told him about the jobs he could apply for. None of them appealed to him. No surprises.
I told him what I do. Learn and create things online.
How can I do that? he asked.
You say to yourself what you’d like to be, then you be it.
The conversation ping pong’d around other business tips. But there’s only one: take on risk others aren’t willing to, deliver value and you’ll be rewarded for it.
Would it help?
A trailer rocketed off the back of a pickup and crashed into my car (a hit and run). The impact sunk the back right wheel into the body of the car. I took it to the mechanic and he said “looks like it’s beyond repair.”
My neighbour walked out and saw me walking around my totalled set of wheels. Dave sold it to me a month ago. I called her Lil Eas.
Aren’t you upset? She asked.
These things happen. I can just catch the shoelace express for a while.
A broken car? Not worth getting upset over. A sick family member? Yes.
Emotions are powerful. I want to use them where they matter. Making art, making love, charging into battle, speaking my truth.
You ever want to use your emotions, save them for something real.
Update: My other neighbour caught CCTV of the hit and run. I’m on my own investigation trail. Detective Dan.
Boredom and time.
Avoid anything which bores you. Boredom sucks the energy out of you and prevents you from creating art, from creating beauty.
This is not to say you should never be bored. There are two types of boredom:
- The general boredom of life, the background hum we all experience, the waiting in the supermarket line, the waiting between birth and death. This type of boredom should be felt.
- The boredom of a task which doesn’t align with your spirit.
You know the feeling of the second one. A voice makes itself heard in your ear. It’s your biology, telling you what you’re doing is nonsense. Listen to it.
The second type of boredom increases stress and decreases your metabolism, great if you want to turn yourself into a sack of potatoes, terrible for living Life as Art. To live Life as Art you need energy.
Become allergic to anything which doesn’t increase your energy.
The second filter, time. If an idea, technology, way of living, ritual, diet has stood the test of time, chances are, it will continue to. Knowing this changes how you look at everything.
How long has the problem been around? The older the problem, the older the solution.
Someone spewing to you the benefits of their new diet? You can use the time filter to tell whether or not you should listen to them.
Lately there has been a craze for fake meat. But pass it through the time filter, does it live up to the hype?
Throughout most of human history, how often did we eat something out of a packet? Never. Does fake meat come in a packet? Yes.
For more on this concept, look into the Lindy effect. Paul Skallas’s newsletter is the best place to start.
A fisherman in Vietnam
Kailash sent me a note asking for advice on making a choice between two options.
Should I do this? Or should I do that?
Both were valid options but the real dilemma was he thought they were his only options.
I replied to him, you don’t have to do anything, there’s an infinite array of opportunities out there. You could become a fisherman in Vietnam if you wanted to.
The fisherman in Vietnam concept represents optionality or more clearly, the shear number of options you have in any given moment.
We like to dig ourselves into holes. Thinking we’ve got to do something or else. But from the moment you’re born, you don’t have to do anything except die.
With this in mind, when you’re stuck on a decision or can’t find an explanation for something, it’s most likely something you can’t or haven’t yet imagined.
McDonald’s got caught recently for rigging their monopoly game. A couple of banker executives are also getting off in my home country for money laundering (again). Frauds (shock).
Who would want to spend time with these kinds of people?
Authenticity seems to be becoming rarer. I mean, who the f*ck knows what anyone is saying anymore? I go strictly off vibes.
The most beautiful people I know are authentic. Authentic beauty is not seen, heard or read. It’s a combination of the three. A really swinging human being is someone who’s aligned their thoughts, actions and words.
If you want to be beautiful, be authentic.
Copy your idols
I thought about my favourite kinds of people.
Writers. Those who etch their truth into the page. Those who place a welcome mat at the entrance of their mind.
Artists. Those who transport others from the real to the surreal. Those who speak with style and create beauty.
Builders. Those who create things others can stand on, be transported by, supported, protected, used.
Leaders. Those who take care of themselves. Health, happiness, wealth, in that order. Those who take care of and inspire others around them.
Lovers. Those who lift the energy of a room with their presence. Those who make others feel welcome. Those who ask the new kid to join in.
Now I know what to do. Write, create, build, lead, love.
This post was originally an issue of Eat, Move, Learn, Make (my newsletter). Sign up for updates like this delivered straight to your inbox.