You have no idea what you're capable of until you've done it, or until you've truly failed trying to do it. If unsure, fail again.
A big part of how I create and travel involves tapping into energies, these invisible and hard to describe forces that seem to connect my physical self with another realm, a realm that, if I could see it, I imagine would look like strings of energy crisscrossing each other and linking together other, highly focused endpoints, all changing in response to the location, the environment, and the energies of the people who were present.
Trying to describe these invisible forces always conjures up images similar to those neuron maps of the brain and the maps of the Internet, only instead of being fixed and static, they’re alive and moving, constantly changing, like a universe inhaling and exhaling, birthing new galaxies with each breath.
I believe that we all have the ability to feel and sense these energies, to receive their signals and tune into them, to redirect and focus them like a magnifying glass focusing otherwise weak beams of sunlight.
When I travel, I feel the different energies and forces present in each place. But there seems to be a catch: I usually can’t feel or tap into them until I’ve settled down for a few weeks.
When I’m moving from one place to another — flying in an airplane, riding on a train, or doing a road trip — the energy generated by the motion is itself extremely powerful and chaotic. This chaotic energy seems to obscure the more stable energy that I can feel when I stop moving, the energy that I feel when I begin creating within a framework of daily routines.
Whenever someone asks me how I decide where I’m traveling to next, my response is always the same: I travel by intuition. I don’t travel to check off a list of places, or to experience a set of cultures, or to taste different foods. I travel by intuition. But what does that mean? What does it mean to ‘travel by intuition’?
It means that when I connect with the energy of a particular place, I allow myself to linger, to tap into the creative energies and allow them to change me, to give me fuel for creating and contemplating and growing until something (usually my intuition) tells me it’s time to move on. In traveling for the past three years, I’ve recognized that the “time to move on” feeling usually occurs within three months.
I’m convinced that I’m not the only one who taps into these energies and I suspect that various places around the world known for attracting artistic and intellectual types are that way because they’re actually strong sources of this invisible energy, sources that most of these people are unknowingly tapping into by living and working there. I suspect that cities appear where they do for the same reasons.
When I arrived in Tasmania a little over a month ago, I could tell within the first few hours that the energy here was strong. I wasn’t at all surprised when I learned that Tasmania is fast becoming known for attracting artistic types.
However, I was caught off guard when, within the first week of arriving, I felt an unrelenting desire to cancel the rest of my travel plans — a week in Perth and a month in Thailand — to spend more time here in Tasmania.
Now, after spending six months in Australia, I’m preparing to leave to visit family in the United States. I’m thinking about where I’ll go next in January and the only place that keeps calling back to me is Tasmania... and I haven’t even left yet.
Why Tasmania? I’m really not sure. All I can say is that my intuition tells me that I should return, that something says this is where I should be and that this is where I will find the creative energy that I need. Creative energy that I need for what? I’m not sure of that either. That too feels like an invisible force present in my future but undefinable to the present.
We all die. We all get hurt, make mistakes, and experience pain that seems impossible to overcome. Life isn’t safe, but a life spent trying to avoid all risk and discomfort is the best way to avoid living at all.
It’s true that some risks are not worth taking, but most risks will mean the difference between living a life on repeat and creating a life forged in sweat, on the steps to a breathtaking summit.
So believe in something impossible. Dream. Search for meaning in your actions. Apologize and forgive. Find harmony in moving forward. Risk. Take action. Do something worthy of your own admiration. But most of all, love, and embrace who you are.
Life is short, and it’s fragile, but it’s worth it.
It is my hope that by the end of this essay you will look to the sky and see airplanes a bit differently than you do now. It is my hope that by the end of this essay you will hear the roaring hiss of a jet engine and look up with a new sense of admiration for who you are.
I’ve watched thousands of airplanes fly over me. I’ve flown in hundreds of them. I’ve watched the earth float by beneath me, studied how these machines work their magic, how humans build their wings, and how pilots master their controls. I’ve even been lucky enough to pilot one myself.
But when I hear one going by, no matter what I’m doing, I still stop and tilt my head to the sky with a childish sense of wonder and watch this mechanical work of art float past (a rather dangerous distraction when I’m driving; I’ve lost a hat this way).
On several occasions in the past few months I’ve found myself on the beach, gazing at the birds and watching as they glide across the ocean. Seconds later I’m presented with the opportunity to observe a similar bird, this time a manmade one, its shiny metal body and heavy engines pushing itself across the sky.
How are these manmade creatures of flight different from those found in nature? They’re both built for the same task: to fly, to temporarily defeat gravity and make use of an invisible force, to float through an invisible landscape.
The natural creature is certainly the more elegant and it’s far more attune with its surroundings. While it blends into the landscape and reacts to the flowing currents of air, its clumsy mechanical counterpart pummels through with sheer force, relying solely on the most basic and most fundamental principals to stay aloft.
One creature was created by nature, the other was created by us, a creation by a creation, a new species of flying creatures designed, engineered, and built entirely by humans. We saw birds flying through the air and we wanted to experience that flow, to obtain that mobility.
For thousands of years we tried manufacturing feathers. We tried making ourselves as light as possible. We tried jumping off cliffs and making contraptions that seemed to mimic the wings in nature.
Everything failed and many lives were lost, but we continued building, testing, risking, and experimenting.
As we began to understand the invisible landscape, we learned to combine visible shapes with invisible forces. We manufactured structures from whatever materials were available and even began inventing and shaping materials that didn’t exist naturally.
Elegance wasn’t nearly as important as function. What mattered was obtaining flight. And so we took to the skies in birds made of wood and metal, eventually refining our models and smoothing our designs.
When I look to the sky now and I see an airplane flying over me, what I see is an example of what it means to be human, that innate desire we all possess to recreate the things we hold with respect and admiration, that need to prove to ourselves and to others that nothing is beyond our ability.
We create because that’s who we are. We live our lives making choices and decisions based on hopes and dreams because we believe. We believe that even the remote possibility is entirely possible, that despite all the odds, the impossible is only two steps away from possible.
To create, to turn thought into action, to push and fight and struggle against all logical reason and bring life to visions and ideas, to shape hopes and dreams into tangible moments of reality and string them together one by one, to learn how to fly when we were born to walk, that is what it means to be human.
Congruency is compatibility, agreement, and harmony. If we're living in congruence with ourselves, then our actions are in harmony with our beliefs. Things we want to see in others, we consciously strive to exude from ourselves. Our actions reflect a commitment to our values.
If we’re not living in congruence with ourselves, then we will say one thing but do another. We will seek things in others that we ourselves fail to strive for.
I’m always looking for ways in which my actions are not congruent with my beliefs. I ask myself, am I acting the same way I would want others to act? Am I making choices that I would want others to make?
I recently realized that my Journal offering — a $7/month subscription — was not in alignment with what I look for in other subscriptions, nor was it compatible with the way that I make monetary contributions to others.
Recognizing this, I’ve made a few changes to the Journal that are going into effect as of today.
There are now monthly and yearly subscription options, along with a one-time donation page. If you make a one-time donation of at least $7, you automatically receive access to the Journal; the duration of access is determined by the amount of your donation.
For the monthly and yearly subscriptions, the minimums are $7 and $40 respectively, but those amounts can be adjusted as long as they remain above the minimums.
Of course you can choose to do nothing and keep your current monthly subscription. However, you now have the option to switch to the yearly subscription, or cancel your recurring subscription and make a one-time donation. Whatever you decide, I’m very grateful for your support. 🙂
So far this year I’ve made monetary contributions to [person requested name be removed], Joy Holland, Sui Solitare, Lynn Fang, Niall Doherty, Thom Chambers, Ando Perez, and Earl Baron, along with several other donations to small independent software developers.
In each case, I might not have made the contribution if I wasn’t able to choose the amount of my subscription or if I wasn’t able to make a one-time contribution.
The freedom to choose, I realized, is quite important to me. I also realized that despite its importance in my life, I wasn’t holding myself to the same standard.
The options for subscribing to my Journal have been, until now, quite limited: you could subscribe for $7/month or not at all. Even the donation button was removed from my site in early 2011.
However, with these new options in place my offering now feels congruent with the rest of my life; I’m now presenting things in way that I would want to see if I visited a site and felt the desire to make a monetary contribution.
Do you have any thoughts on living in congruence with yourself, or on the power of choice? Is there anything in particular that you wish you saw more of, whether from me or from others that you follow?
I tell myself that I don’t sweat the little things, that I’m really good at letting things go, but if I’m frank with myself and I take a hard look at the evidence, it’s clear that I do hold on to lots of little things. Many small, rather insignificant things that prevent me from growing and moving forward.
I came across a column article called How We Get Better, written by Steven Pressfield. Steven tells the story of his friend Paul who recently had a writing breakthrough and accidentally discovered his writing voice.
Steven explains how we get better by sharing the observations he made of his friend’s breakthrough. The observation that I found most interesting was number four: “This new voice was not the ‘real’ Paul; it was the artistic Paul.”
When I read any of my old writing, especially the writing that I feel is good, it never sounds like me. It’s as if there was someone else writing it. Was it because I was writing with my artistic voice and not my normal voice (i.e., the voice that I identify with)?
And if there was an artistic voice within me, what was holding it back when I wanted to write? Where was the resistance coming from?
Intrigued, I started scanning my collection of old unpublished drafts. I don’t know why I started there, but intuitively something told me that’s where I should go next, so I listened.
Within a few seconds I came across something that I had written nearly two years ago about not sweating the little things. The draft included two incomplete stories of events that caused me to start writing the draft.
While the stories were incomplete, I immediately remembered the events in great detail and recalled the importance and impact of their lessons.
In both events I had run into situations that seemed impassable. There seemed to be no possible resolution that did not come with repercussions.
But instead of stressing out, worrying, and taking premature action, I took a deep breath and released the situation to the universe.
Almost immediately the situation changed in ways that I never thought possible and both problems were resolved, like a magical missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle falling into a place that I didn’t know existed.
As I read this old draft and recalled the story and the lessons I learned, I realized that the resistance I most often experience actually comes from getting in the way of the natural flow of things.
The problem isn’t that I’m incapable of making more money, producing better writing, improving my social skills, or learning how to cook. It’s that I’m holding myself back from progressing forward by spending valuable time sweating the little things.
When I’m trying to learn how to cook, for example, I hold myself back by giving credence to thoughts of insufficiency.
Instead of looking up recipes online, buying ingredients, and then experimenting, I choose to worry about making something that won’t taste good, or wasting ingredients, or that my being too analytical isn’t compatible with cooking.
(In the past few weeks I’ve overcome a lot of this resistance and discovered that I love cooking, but more on that another time.)
When I’m trying to write, I resist forward progress by holding myself back by giving attention to needless thoughts.
“What if people don’t understand what I’m trying to say? What if I don’t know what I’m trying to say? What if my point is missed and my writing is criticized? What if I do more harm than good in my haste to publish?”
These thoughts, these unrelenting doubts and worries and questions, never seem to let up. They appear to be waiting for one thing and one thing only: for me to give up.
I’m realizing that the key isn’t to challenge these things that present resistance but instead to ignore them, like a raging river ignoring a large rock and flowing around it.
We get better by not sweating the little things but by letting them go and moving on to the next step with fearless bravado. It’s only when we try to take on the whole world, to shoulder responsibility for getting every single thing perfect, that we hold ourselves back from getting better.
When something happens and you realize, “Crap! this is gonna screw things up”, just accept it and move on to the next step. It is what it is. If it's something that's not in your hands—if it’s something that you can’t control—then let it go. You can’t control it.
Be confident that things will turn out OK. You'll live. The day will go on. The sun will rise again. People will die. People will be born. People will make money. People will lose money. People will find jobs. People will lose jobs.
Go and stare at the ‘deaths today’ meter for a few minutes (hopefully you won’t last that long). Try to picture each of those deaths. Yours will be one of those numbers someday. And then the next number will come and whoever is watching that clock will forget about your number.
The world is not going to change or stop or end because of this little thing that happened to you. Relax. Don’t sweat the little things. Take a deep breath and move on.
The 'sustainable model' that I try to gauge myself against is that of equality for humanity. If it’s not sustainable for everyone, then it’s not sustainable.
When I find myself doing something on a regular basis, I ask myself the question, "Is this sustainable for humanity?" I try to imagine, to the best of my ability, replicating what I'm doing across all humans on earth and then I try to decide if that’s sustainable.
"Is this particular food I'm eating sustainable enough for all 7 billion humans to sit and eat the same meal with me today?"
"Is this method of transportation that I'm using sustainable enough for all 7 billion humans to ride it with me today?"
"Is this project or job or career that I'm pursuing sustainable enough for all 7 billion humans to pursue the same project, job, or career with me?"
"Is buying a brand new paperback book at the bookstore sustainable enough for all 7 billion humans to buy one with me?”
“Is what I’m creating or producing on a regular basis something that 7 billion others could create or produce alongside me?”
I keep asking myself this question, over and over: "Is this sustainable for humanity?"
It's almost impossible for me to know with accuracy what’s sustainable for everyone, but at least by asking the question and framing it in context of all humans I gain a better understanding and perspective around my lifestyle choices.
Can 7 billion humans consume meat while still maintaining a sustainable ecosystem for the planet? Nope. So clearly non-meat diets are the way to move forward.
Can 7 billion humans drive their own combustion-engine vehicle while still maintaining a clean environment and healthy planet? Nope. So clearly public and mass-transit systems are the better, more sustainable option.
I don’t know how all the pieces fit together. There are so many variables that go into answering such big questions. But that shouldn’t stop us from asking them. Simply asking the question always yields a feeling in one direction or another.
Applying a little knowledge and commonsense goes a long way towards guiding those feelings in the right direction. By asking the big questions and allowing their answers to shape our decisions, we’re far more likely to do things that make sense on a global scale.
A little over a year ago I began asking this question on a regular basis. It all started when I was purchasing a pair of minimalist running shoes online.
As I contemplated the $112 price tag, I began to wonder if such a choice made sense on a global scale.
Assuming everybody on Earth could afford such a purchase, could the Earth itself support the manufacture of that many shoes made of those same materials?
It quickly became obvious that given a scenario where all humans had to wear the same shoes, we would collectively find a much cheaper solution using materials that were already in abundance and which already needed to be reused.
This solution would maximize durability, allow everyone to make repairs and alterations to their footwear with the most basic tools, and ensure maximum ergonomic compatibility with the human body.
Did such a solution already exist? Certainly after thousands of years something as basic as footwear must have evolved to the point where it was sustainable, right?
I used the greatest resource of knowledge humankind has ever created and did a little research online. I learned about the Tarahumara, the native American people of northern Mexico who run hundreds of miles a week using sandals fabricated from old rubber tires.
I’ve been wearing and running in my own handmade pair of huaraches for over a year now, making repairs and alterations as necessary and being quietly reminded with each step of that decision I made after asking the question, “Is this sustainable for humanity?”
If we all gauge our decisions against a backdrop of equality for humanity, then we will recognize the significance of our individual actions and those actions will naturally gravitate towards what makes sense for everyone.
It used to be that we were so disconnected from each other that it wasn’t possible to find globally harmonious solutions. It used to be that everybody would make decisions based on their local knowledge and access to resources.
But now, in a ever-growing global society where an increasing number of us have access to resources from anywhere on the planet and the collective knowledge of humanity, our individual choices matter more than ever.
How we choose to live, what we choose to do, the things we choose to buy and eat and consume, all of it has an ever-increasing impact on the rest of humanity and those of us affecting things on that global scale have a new responsibility to work towards what is sustainable for everyone.
To work towards a future of global social equality, we must start by making decisions that reflect a respect for that equality and we can start by asking the question, “Is this sustainable for humanity?”