Work, the adult version of play, lets us focus effort on achieving a goal. Work is play with commitment but work without a goal is waste.
How did I get here? I don't know. It's hard to say. Sometimes my life moves so fast that I can't keep up and when I look back at the past six months that's exactly how I feel: unable to keep up. I feel unable to find the words to describe the journey, that same journey that I need to describe to fulfill my commitment to sharing it with you.
As a writer, I try to understand not just the world around me, but also the world within me. But how can I explain to you what to me feels unexplainable?
How can I describe the landscape outside the window when my ship is going a thousand miles an hour?
Perhaps that's the challenge of all writers, to keep up with the endless flow when it arrives, to master the skill of deduction, deciding what gets shared and what gets left out, like a detective removing all possible suspects until only the best candidates remain.
This writing is evidence of my attempt to put aside for just a moment the amazingness of what has happened, to pull the emergency brake on my life and slow down just enough to get this message across to you so that I can stop looking backward for answers around how to best convey this.
I don't want to be looking backward, especially not when this thousand-mile-per-hour ship is about to get upgraded to warp-speed. I need to be looking forward, and I want to be looking forward, and sharing that forward journey with you.
All the best journeys in life are lifelong journeys, those adventures that don't really have a clear beginning and whose ending appears as a climax that does not lead to an ending but instead undergoes a metamorphosis that by some play of magic recreates a beginning where there was no ending.
This is my attempt to explain that magical recreation of a beginning without an end.
Six months ago I was a solo-traveler, not really sure of where my life was going. Today, I'm a husband to a wife, with a daughter on the way.
Yes, you heard that right. If that sounds hard to believe, trust me when I say that it's just as strange for me to write.
I met my wife Anna, also a solo-traveler, and we connected as unexpectedly as we started a family. Both of us believe the universe has a reason for everything. But that belief is equally matched, perhaps paradoxically, with a shared belief that our destinies are not pre-written, that we decide and choose our reality.
We're now learning to embrace roles that neither of us ever thought or imagined we'd need to embrace at any point in our lives. We had both accepted that such roles were simply not in the cards for us. How wrong we were. But that's okay. We're both adaptable, a trait that any solo traveler will tell you is an essential skill.
So how do two solo travelers, whose love for travel is only matched by a respect and reverence for family, start a family of their own? How do two people who feel uncomfortable using the terms 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' find a way to embrace each other as 'husband' and 'wife' and prepare themselves for spending a lifetime together? How do two independent individuals who love doing things on their own come together to share the responsibility of bringing a new life into this world?
I haven't been writing or publishing very much for the past few months because I don't like skirting around issues or hiding things. I don't like writing for the sake of writing. If I'm going to write and share something with you, it needs to be real and true, an actual representation of what I'm going through. I knew that I could not honestly do that until I announced this because nearly everything I've been thinking about over the past four months, as you might imagine, has been thought about against the backdrop of this new and incredible shift in my life.
One thing that I'm struggling with right now is figuring out where my boundaries are when it comes to writing and publishing. I don't yet know when I will announce all of this to the rest of the world (i.e., outside of this journal). In addition to you, I've only told family and a few close friends.
How much of my private life -- how much of my family life -- am I willing to put out there? On one hand I've always been very transparent about almost everything: my finances, my travel schedule, my thoughts and feelings on life. However, at the same time I'm also a very private person and I value my privacy, even if that privacy is only confined to a few thoughts in my brain.
Until now, its been easy to determine what I want to share and what I don't. But now I have two other people to think about. I'm grateful that Anna is carefree, perhaps even more so than me, so I have no doubt that whatever I choose to share she'll be okay with me sharing. However that doesn't help me figure out what, if anything, should remain private.
I'm a writer who writes about things that are close to his heart and it's important to me that I continue to write that way. I intentionally created this journal so that I would have a place to share the very things that I might not otherwise want to share, at least not immediately, with the public, and this journal was created as a place to share those things with a smaller group of people who wanted to support my work.
So, at least initially, I will start sharing a lot more here with you through the journal.
Anna and I intend to keep traveling once our daughter is a year old. We want to spend 6-8 months every year living in a different country, picking up the culture, learning a bit of the local language, and perhaps finding ways that we can contribute to the local economy. (Anna has aspirations of starting an orphanage in southeast Asia and she's finishing up her Master's degree in Non-Profit Management.)
We're both aspiring minimalists with a distaste for consumerism. We believe strongly in reusing and maintaining things over throwing out and replacing them and these are values we want to pass on to our child.
I might make it sound like we've got this all figured out, but I know that there will be many challenges along the way. We've already faced several. But like any solo-traveler, and with someone else in the middle now for whom we need to drop our stubborn individuality and think beyond ourselves, we remain adaptable.
Am I any more sure where my life is going? No, not really. But it's sure about to get a lot more real.
I'm convinced that nature has a way of signaling big changes and that if you pay attention you can read those signs and see things coming. I certainly didn't see any of this coming, but I do see the signs now when I look back. It all began when I was in Darwin, Australia, almost ten months ago.
But let me stop there. This journal entry is already getting a bit long and I need to add more wood to the fire. I'm camping with my dad in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for the weekend; this was, I think, the emergency brake that I needed to articulate all these thoughts in a coherent manner and get them out into a format that I can share with you.
My dad is already asleep. The fire is getting low and the cold is creeping in. My fingers are getting stiff on the keyboard.
Now that I've made this announcement you can expect a stream of journal entries to follow. There are a few other things I've been getting interested in that I've wanted to share here but haven't because I felt a responsibility to share this first. One of those things is my growing interest in Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency that I realized is exactly what was missing back when I wrote my Income Ethics series two years ago.
Life is an adventure, and just as I was starting to feel that perhaps my adventure was missing a little something, it got a lot more interesting. I want to start sharing this journey with you and I hope that you'll join me for the ride.
I’ve always known that I wasn’t very interested in “showing off”, or doing things just to impress others, but the recent discovery of why I push my limits has been an interesting and unexpected journey and it has led me to question several previously held commitments.
It all began when I started breaking my personal distance records for running. At first it was 11 miles (18 km), and then 17 miles (28 km). I set these personal records alone, barefoot, and with nobody watching and nobody except my iPhone keeping track.
And that was enough for me. I didn’t need anything more. It was enough that I knew I had broken my previous records. It was enough because the record-breaking itself was only pursued because I wanted to explore that unknown, to run further than I had ever run before and to discover how my body would respond.
I wanted to feel those new muscles hurt, to know what it felt like to become delirious when my energy stores ran low, and to observe the strange thoughts of doubt surfacing when my feet were so tired that I could barely feel them. It was that exploration into the unknown, that feeling of passing 11-miles and knowing that with each stride I was experiencing something new, something that my body had never experienced before. It was that potential for discovery and that pursuit of the unknown that inspired me to keep going.
I have no desire to prove to others that I can do something. In fact, I don’t even need to prove it to myself. For me, it’s about the exploration, pure and simple. It’s about the journey. And I share my journey with others because the only thing more powerful than taking a journey is sharing it with others.
But if nobody witnesses my exploration — if nobody sees or records me setting a new world record — I’m absolutely fine with that. If I die with my name unknown to the world, that’s OK with me. What matters to me is that I’ve lived well and that I’ve lived in pursuit of the unknown. What matters to me is that I’ve never stopped learning and growing and that I’ve done my best to help others by sharing the uniqueness of my potential.
I’ve become fairly good at turning things down when I recognize that they won’t contribute to my overall vision or direction, or when I realize that I won’t be excited and enthusiastic about doing it when the time comes to follow through.
But what about those things that I’ve already committed to, those things that I was working towards but that now no longer hold any interest? What should I do with them when I discover they no longer inspire or motivate me or when I learn something new about why I chose to do them in the first place?
It seems rather wasteful and brainless to push through stubbornly, to ignore the fact that I’m no longer motivated and do something just because I’ve previously committed to it. Life is fluid, it’s not ridged. Life does not exist as a defined waterway set into stone that we must follow religiously. Life flows, and so should we.
I’ve become so weary of pushing through stale commitments and goals because doing so always creates a toxic feeling, a physical sensation that I can only describe as stress hormones spewing themselves throughout my body. When I feel it, I become hyper-focused on ignoring those feelings and then I need to expend enormous amounts of energy stubbornly pushing through whatever it is that’s generating them.
This stress generates a huge creative block, a resistance that prevents creativity of any type. As I put more and more importance on my creative work, I find myself increasingly weary of pushing through things just for the sake of ‘pushing through and sticking to the plan’. The plan now needs to have a clear purpose and it needs to make me feel alive.
In the past few years, I’ve given up and said no to many things in the pursuit of happiness, peace, flow, and simplicity. Facing negative energy, whether from myself or from those around me, immediately reminds me of just how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned about releasing things that do not feel life-enriching.
But is it necessary to occasionally sacrifice some of that peace in the name of pushing myself beyond limits and stepping outside of my comfort zone?
A few months ago I registered for my first marathon, and then few weeks later I registered for my first ultramarathon. I registered for them because I thought I wanted an official record to show that I had run a specific distance, to see my name on a list of official runners and to be able to tell people that “I ran the Baystate Marathon”, or that “I ran the Chicago Lakeside 50-mile Ultramarathon.”
But as the two events approached, I found my motivation for both of them evaporating.
My focus in the past month has taken an unexpected turn, instigated, I believe, by the creative energy I felt in Tasmania. Up until that point, I was maintaining a regular training schedule and I was on target for the marathons. But when I arrived in Tasmania, I became more reflective and more internally creative. My training took a backseat and I started to reflect on why I had registered for the marathons in the first place.
Setting those new personal records and discovering my true motivations for running and pushing myself made me realize that I have absolutely no desire to see my name on an official record. If I run an ultramarathon all by myself, with nobody watching, I’d feel the same sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I would feel if hundreds saw me do it.
I’ve learned that running is about the journey for me, it’s not about the destination. Completing an official marathon was a destination, not a journey (a journey would be pushing my body to run a marathon distance, which is something that I could do anywhere, at any time).
And so this is where I need to decide whether or not to push through and uphold a previously held commitment: Do I ignore all these new things that I’ve learned and move forward with pushing myself through the marathons just for the sake of completing them? Or do I allow myself to adapt and flow, to embrace this new knowledge of why I run and then adjust my focus and my goals accordingly?
At this point in writing, my thoughts shifted to what Bruce Lee might tell me. His words about flow came to mind: “Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
I stopped writing for a moment and looked outside to reflect on Bruce’s words. My eyes landed on a seagull perched high on a light pole, just moments before he leapt off and spread his wings. Did the bird commit to flying? Yes. But did he commit to a destination?
When a bird jumps from a tree branch, he makes a commitment to take flight. He may have the intention of flying to a neighboring tree, but he doesn’t make a commitment to do so; a gust of wind may alter his course and force him to land somewhere else. Instead, he commits to the intention of the journey and then adjusts course as needed, flowing and adapting, like water.
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?
As I mentioned in my latest journal entry, I'm going to start publishing travel notes here on the places that I visit. These notes will contain anything from short anecdotes to odd experiences to conversations with people that I meet during my travels.
My first stop on the 2012 USA road trip was Northampton, Massachusetts where I met my friend Jasmine Lamb. Northampton is located in the western part of Massachusetts. I had never driven that far out west, but I wasn't surprised to find that it didn't feel much different than the rest of the state.
Northampton itself is a small but noticeably older town that was settled in the early 1600s. I couldn't decide if I should pronounce it 'north-hampton' or 'nor-hampton' but Jasmine told me later that she always pronounced it 'north-hampton'.
In the downtown area, there were lots of cafes that seemed quite busy and I got the sense that the town was popular with the younger crowd. A little research on Wikipedia taught me that Northampton has a large and politically influential LGBT community and that the city is part of something called the Knowledge Corridor.
After meeting Jasmine in a local cafe and talking over a cup of jasmine tea (ironic, huh?), we walked around town a bit, first through the bustling downtown area and then on an old railroad bed that had been converted into a walking trail.
We talked on a wide array of topics, but one part of our discussion that really stuck with me was a story she told me about her brother: While traveling in a developing country, he learned that amputee children would often outgrow their prosthetic limbs and then need to wait long amounts of time until someone older than them outgrew their prosthetic limb and passed it down to them (that is if they were lucky).
Instead of seeing the problem and just thinking how unfortunate it was, he decided to invent a prosthetic limb that could be adjusted in size to account for the child's inevitable growth. That way, once the child gets a prosthetic limb, it remains the child's limb regardless of their growth.
Such a simple invention and yet he did something that I think few would-be inventors (including myself) actually do: believe in the invention enough to make it a reality and then overcome the discomfort of following through.
It takes more than belief in the idea to make it a reality. Jasmine told me how her brother also spent many years learning other things related to business -- stuff that he wasn't even remotely interested in -- to make his invention a reality. He was committed to creating a solution to the problem he observed and as a result his adjustable prosthetic limbs are now being used by children in developing countries.
My next stop was Saratoga Springs, NY, where I got to fly a small airplane for the second time in my life. This second experience seems to have given me the 'flight bug' and now I'm itching to become a pilot. I'll write more about the experience in my next travel note.