Envision an Unwritten Future

When I was younger, I thought that my future held my circle of friends; we seemed inseparable. When I owned a house, I put my heart and soul into its maintenance, sweating and struggling to hold onto it because I was so sure that it was in my future.

I thought the same thing about my job, that my future held a high-paying career as a computer programmer, or a security consultant. At one point I was certain that my future held a position in the military. I was sure it held my ex-girlfriend.

But I was wrong, about all of it.

I learned that by telling ourselves day in and day out that we know what the future holds, that it must hold this thing or that person just because we always thought that it would, we lock ourselves into self-limiting and self-destructive patterns.

We hold onto these expectations because it’s safer that way, because our primal instinct wants to feel secure, because it wants to know that we’ve been somewhere and that we’ve done something and that all of this must mean we’re going somewhere, with someone, or with a specific group of someones.

We want to see ourselves making tangible progress, moving laterally from one direction to another, swimming toward a specific destination and making specific, measurable progress. We don’t want to think three-dimensionally, to look down into a dark abyss and imagine sinking to a undefinable place that holds so much unknown, to a place that has no certain depth and no measurable end, a place where anything can happen.

We don’t want to imagine that, but that’s exactly what the future holds, a dark unknown. We have no light to shine on the future. We have no map to lead us through. There is no rulebook that determines what happens and what doesn’t, who lives and who dies, who comes, and who goes. Life isn’t a two-dimensional surface with birth and death clearly marked on either end. It’s dynamic. It’s unpredictable. It’s raw.

You are not who you were yesterday and tomorrow, you won’t be who you are right now. But who you are right now is real. It’s tangible, and the only thing holding you back from blossoming is what you take with you into tomorrow, and what you expect to find when you get there. Your vision of the future is flawed. It’s a mirage. It’s an island that you’re swimming toward that doesn’t even exist.

Stop swimming.

Every heartbeat is a heartbeat you’ve never experienced. Every breath is a breath you’ve never taken.

Envision a future that is so unwritten, a future that is so strange that you have trouble holding it in your imagination. Envision a future so blank, so pure and unencumbered by the past or the present, so savage and wild and deep that it remains unrestrained by preconceptions of yesterday and unchained from expectations of today.

Envision a future that is so impossibly unimaginable that it creates an abyss of nothingness, and then, allow yourself to float into that unknown, leaving behind everything to embrace a future you that is flawless and free.

Carrying the Weight

Summit of Mt. Monadnock

It was below freezing and I was sweating profusely. A light snow dusted the ground, hiding small patches of ice that littered the rocky trail and made each step questionable.

It wasn't supposed to be a tough hike, but the weather, the extra clothing, and the weight on my back were all adding to the challenge.

I generally hike alone and for a short trek like this one I wouldn't have brought a backpack. However, a friend came along this time and insisted that one of us bring a bag for food, water, and extra warm gear.

I always prefer a challenge so I asked to be the one to carry the bag. But halfway up the trail, sweating, and out of breath, I suffocated my ego and handed the bag over to my friend.

Without the bag, my body felt so light. I began hopping from rock to rock, practically running up the mountain without so much as an elevated heart rate.

The freedom was exhilarating.

And then I landed on a patch of ice and almost slipped. Continue reading

33 Moments of Introspection

Pine Trees in Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest

"What if I had a clone? What if my clone wasn't complete and he needed some kind of information that would help him better understand who it means to be me?"

It was an odd thought, but I went with it anyway. I was sitting in an office, peering into the darkness that enveloped the city of Boston. The shapes of buildings were outlined with tiny lights and red, green, and white colors flowed on the streets below.

"What would I tell a clone to help him better understand me?" I began jotting down specific points that came to mind and stopped when I reached thirty-three.

"Was this me? Did this list convey the essence of what it's like to live in my head?"

Over the course of the next few days, I went back to that list and spent time pondering each point. I jotted down stories, described examples, and otherwise tried to define what each thing meant to me.

Now I'm sharing that list here with you in the hopes that you will glean something useful from it. Continue reading

Homesick in a Strange and Privileged Land

I was holding back tears and trying to swallow intense emotions that were bubbling to the surface. The room was dimly lit and the stadium-style seats were the most comfortable chairs I had felt in more than six months. I looked at the cup of coffee in my hand and, closing my eyes, I slowly touched it to my face and felt the warmth of its contents.

Only 24 hours earlier I had been in another country, a place on the opposite side of the world so foreign and so different that it was easy to forget that I didn't just arrive from another planet. Obvious differences stood out, but it was the subtle differences that really made the biggest impact.

The first thing I noticed was the faster pace of life. It's not so much the physical speed of things, but pace at which you're expected to respond to and process information. Simple things like paying for something at the register or answering the telephone felt hurried or rushed. Even conversations seemed needlessly accelerated. It feels as though you're expected to think, act, and operate like a machine. Continue reading

9 Nomadic Principles for Everyday Life

Flowers in the Himalayan Mountains

As the speed of my life comes to a screeching halt in the United States, I find myself desperately searching for something of my nomadic lifestyle to hold onto -- some way to apply what I've learned without traveling.

I wrote these nine nomadic principles as a way to remind myself how to stay nomadic even when I'm not moving around -- a way to keep that freedom alive inside regardless of how limited I might be location-wise.

You don't need to be a nomad to apply these lessons and they're just as relevant for a non-traveler as they are for someone who spends their life roaming the planet.

1. Embrace change

Change is the only constant in the universe. If your life is full of routines, it can be extremely easy to forget how natural it is for things to change unexpectedly. Change is normal. Resisting this universal constant guarantees you will encounter stress when things don't go according to plan. Continue reading

Why You Matter The Most

Sunset over Lake Pokhara

For days after returning to Pokhara, my stomach was upset and my body refused everything I fed it. My head was on cloud nine and my body was endlessly tired. My inner energies were dissipated and my life felt out of whack.

Any attempt to reply to emails, work on writing, catch up with social media, or even explore the city, was met with solid mental and physical resistance. All I could focus on was eating healthy and resting until my health improved.

I could have struggled. I could have sucked it up and battled through it. I could have ignored the fact that my temple was in need of repair and instead focused on work. I could have ignored my own needs and told myself that I needed to sacrifice.

But what good would that have done? How would being selfish towards myself help me in my quest to help others?

The words "be the change you wish to see in the world" are easy to say, but the danger behind the simplicity of those words is that changing ourselves is not an easy task. It's a complex and oftentimes difficult endeavor. In fact, it can be so difficult that neglecting ourselves and choosing to help others is often the easier option! Continue reading

Keeping an Eye on the Bigger Picture

Family Billboard in Vietnam

My bladder was about to burst.

Just a few more minutes, two more pages and I'll stop and run to the restroom.

OK, back to work. I'm on a roll. No time for lunch today.

And so went the three weeks that I spent putting together my first ebook. When it comes down to it I can be very stubborn, even obsessive. It's a quality I struggle to put to good use, but when it finds good use it's amazing what gets done.

The staff at the cafe knew me by name -- some of them even have my phone number. When I arrived, they knew what I would order and where I would sit. Sometimes they would inquire as to what I was working on. Sometimes they would leave me notes telling me how impressed they were by my diligence.

When the cafe closed at ten, I would walk back to my hotel room, past the crowds of drunken tourists who were loudly making their way into one of several clubs, where even louder music was blaring, filling the streets of Kathmandu with sounds that didn't quite fit with my idea of rugged and romantic Nepal -- a country at the top of the world, home to the tallest mountains on the planet.

I would plug in my laptop, lay down on the bed, and continue working until two in the morning, wrestling with unreliable WiFi and the occasional power outage while the sound of monsoon rains trickled in through my window. Five hours later I would wake up and repeat the entire process again. Continue reading

Advice for my Future Self

He looked noticeably older, a little worn, but utterly calm with a presence that seemed to exude experience, awareness, and most of all a sense of confidence. He seemed a lot more laid back and easygoing than my present self.

I was sitting at a small coffee table in Kathmandu, Nepal and I had looked up from my laptop to find myself, twenty years in the future, sitting right across from me.

As I stared in disbelief, he leaned back and eased into the chair. His eyes smiled and he looked over me, as if he was inspecting a rare artifact.

"I'm you", he said with a bit of humor in his voice, "twenty years in the future. I only have a few minutes and I'd like to hear what advice you can give me." Continue reading

7 Pieces of Advice for my Younger Self

Raam Dev at Age Three

My upcoming ebook (due out by the end of this month) wouldn't be possible without the incredible contributions I've been receiving from bloggers and non-bloggers alike (thank you!).

Creating something for a good cause that brings together the collective knowledge of so many individuals is exactly the type of project I want to be apart of, so when a new friend on Twitter, Abubakar Jamil, invited me to contribute to a free ebook he's putting together, I felt it would be the perfect opportunity to give back to the community.

Abubakar's ebook will be a compilation of life lessons and advice from various bloggers and non-bloggers. The Life Lessons Series project already has over twenty contributors and the combined volume of knowledge and advice is incredible.

My good friend Farnoosh Brock, whose own list of life lessons is an absolute goldmine of advice, emailed me yesterday to make sure I was writing this post. I must say, there's nothing quite like receiving motivation and support from someone you've never actually met. Continue reading

Video: Follow Your Inner Compass

I recorded this video while I was walking back to the farmhouse in Ujire, India, on the two-mile road between the main road and the farmhouse. Although I left Ujire several weeks ago, I'm posting this now because I feel this message is very important.

When we follow our inner compass -- our intuition -- we discover that life feels less restricted. Things just seem to flow from one thing to the next.

This effect can even be seen in the video. Initially, I wasn't going to record anything and I began walking away from the stream to continue on to the farm. But I felt something tugging at me. My inner compass was telling me to turn around and capture the moment. Continue reading

Discovering Sandals Made of Gold and the Link Between Frugality and Gratefulness

Sandals Made of Gold

It was my first day in Gokarna, a small beach town on the west coast of India. Getting here had been an all-day adventure of trains, buses with flat tires, and a sketchy taxi driver who had us switch cars halfway to the hotel (he told me his driver was picking us up... I thought he was the driver!). However, after spending several months away from any large bodies of water, I was looking forward to enjoying the beach. Continue reading

Lessons from a Crab: The Right Path in Life isn't Always Obvious or Easy

On the way to the remote farmhouse where I'm staying in Ujire, India, there is a small stream that crosses the road. It's a beautiful and calm place, surrounded by dense forest with just enough opening in the canopy to let a few rays of light through.

Big and beautiful butterflies are abundant, floating high above on black and yellow wings. An endless array of birds, their exact whereabouts hidden by the thick greenery, call out and sing in an acoustic dance.

A short distance upstream, there is a pool of water that collects underneath a stone ledge, measuring about twenty feet wide by four feet tall. Feeding the pool, a small waterfall runs in, adding to the surreal beauty of the place. Continue reading

28 Life Lessons That Help Me Balance Life

I spent the first six hours of my 28th birthday in India, on a seven-hour bus ride to the farmhouse in Ujire. A few hours before the bus was scheduled to depart, my stomach became upset and I began mentally preparing myself for a rough, uncomfortable, and sleepless seven hours on the road.

But apparently the universe had other plans.

It decided to make the entire trip peaceful and pleasant, as if it was doing its best to give me an early birthday present. In fact, between the jeeps and the other bus rides I have taken in India, it was the best ride I've experienced since arriving almost a month ago.

I was returning to Ujire from Bangalore, where I attended the wedding of Krishna and Nithya, two awesome people that I met only a few weeks earlier. It was a fun-filled, multi-day, multi-cultural event that I'm very thankful to have been apart of.

While I don't like making my birthday a big deal (after all, depending which world calendar you're looking at, today isn't even my birthday), I want to celebrate today by sharing twenty-eight life changing lessons that I feel have made me the person I am today and helped me balance life. Continue reading

How I Discovered That I Was Discriminating

I consider myself to be a very open-minded individual, so the recent realization that I was being discriminative shocked me. The last thing I want to do is discriminate -- it wasn't intentional, it only lasted about ten seconds, and I discovered that I was doing it almost entirely by accident.

I want to share this story with you so that you can be more aware of your own actions and mental processes and hopefully avoid making the same mistake that I made.

As I travel around India, I receive many stares and looks from the local people. Even some of the animals look at me funny! But it's not everyone. Some people stare non-stop until I pass them, but others just glance at me and then look away, as if I was any other human being (the normal type of interaction you'd expect between two strangers).

After a few weeks of getting stares, the fact that it wasn't everyone staring started to bug me: I'm just another human, why do some of you have to stare at me? Continue reading

Are you storing stuff to ignore it?

When I moved out of my big apartment to downsize to a smaller place back in 2008, I rented a storage unit to temporarily store the stuff that I didn't see myself using on a regular basis.

Since I wanted to sell or give away everything and reduce my possessions, I had originally planned to only keep the storage unit for a few months. I thought that if I made storing my unnecessary possessions a financial burden, I would be more encouraged to get rid of them. I told myself that by paying money every month I would be forcing myself to get my butt moving and sell all the unnecessary stuff.

Well, that didn't happen.

Month after month went by and I found myself in an endless loop of procrastination. I kept telling myself that $120 a month wasn't that much to spend for a safe and secure 10'x8' storage space. I told myself that the stuff inside the storage unit was worth a lot more than I was spending and that I would eventually make all my money back when I got around to selling the stuff. Continue reading

Do one thing every day that scares you

Yesterday my parents badly needed sand because their big driveway was covered in sheer ice. Many people have told me that as long as I was a Lowell resident I could get free sand from a particular Lowell Public Works yard. (It's actually better than regular sand because it's a salt/sand mixture they use on the public roads.) I've seen plenty of municipal plow trucks drive down the long dirt road to the yard but never any non-municipal trucks, so I was always hesitant to check it out. None of us really has the money to spend on bags and bags of sand or salt from Home Depot, so filling my truck with free sand would be really helpful for everyone.

I'm not a Lowell resident anymore (I used to own three rental properties in Lowell but I live in NH now) however my truck still has a Massachusetts license plates. For many years I've imagined the worst possible outcome for driving down that long dirt road to get sand. I imagined armed guards with guns ready to fire upon me for trespassing, getting arrested by the police, etc, etc. Then yesterday, after realizing the worst possible thing that could actually happen (of all the most likely bad things) would be for someone to simply tell me "no, the sand is for city use only", I finally built up the courage to drive down the road to see if I could get some free sand.

The yard was empty. There were no armed guards with guns ready to fire upon me. There were no gates preventing me from passing. In fact, there weren't even any signs that said "No Trespassing" or "Official Use Only" and not a single person in sight to stop me! I drove up to the huge pile of sand, filled my truck, and drove away. That's when it hit me. If I had only built up the courage to do something that had very little risk associated with it, I could have had access to free sand for all my rental properties for the past 6 years! As I drove away from the huge pile of sand, I remembered a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Comfort makes us feel good; it's relaxing and it allows us to enjoy life. Unfortunately like many narcotics comfort has a nasty side-effect; too much of it leads to the exact opposite: discomfort. It should, therefore, be used in moderation (like everything else in life) and we should not use it as a constant destination. The destination of every moment should be the growth and gratitude of this life.

Staying within our comfort zone limits our ability to grow and learn. Niels Bohr, a Nobel Prize winning Danish physicist who made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics said, "An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." Nobody is comfortable making mistakes, but if mistakes are such a vital component to advancing our growth then we need to embrace doing things that scare us; we need to embrace doing things that make us feel uncomfortable so that we can live richer, fuller lives, instead of living a life of fear, worry, and uncertainty.

It's no doubt a scary thing to intentionally do something that makes us feel uncomfortable; to intentionally do something where the outcome or consequences are unknown. However, if we recognize that much of the fear comes from our own subconscious playing out the worst possible outcome, the outcome that is probably less likely to happen than lightning striking us from inside an office building, then we can quickly overcome our fears and grow in amazing ways.

Doing something every day that scares you may be quite a challenge but just try to think of all the little things that you don't do every day simply because you're afraid or because you're uncertain of their outcome. Saying hello to the cute girl who works in an adjacent office, taking an alternate route to a frequent destination down roads you've never traveled, selling something you don't use but think you'll eventually need, being extra friendly to a family member who you've never gotten along with, standing up to your boss or manager when you know you're right. I'm sure if you think carefully you can find plenty of harmless things you've avoided simply out of fear of the unknown.

Be more open to new experiences and grab life by the horns. Get out of your comfort zone and face challenges head on. Do one thing every day that scares you. Don't be afraid to learn something new about yourself or to change something about who you think you are as a person. But remember, as Mrs. Roosevelt also said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

Research Before Committing

For the past few months, I've been meaning to purchase the latest version of WHM.AutoPilot, the web host billing software I use for Akmai.net. There are lots of bugs in the current version and many of my clients have complained about the problems with the billing system (it doesn't work). I finally put it on my calendar and told myself I would purchase the $180 upgrade and get it installed this week.

I was on the WHM.AutoPilot website with the V3 Owned License in my shopping cart ready to checkout when I realized that I should probably do some research to see what other web host billing software was out there. I wasn't even aware of any other options, but with the size of the web hosting industry I knew there had to be competing products.

I quickly came across a couple of different ones, namely ModernBill, ClientExec, and WHMCS. After spending about half an hour searching Google and reading forum posts, I concluded that ModernBill was definitely the most popular and most recommended. But realizing that I had only known of the existence of these products for thirty minutes, I decided to spend some more time researching.

All of these applications have demo areas where I can try the admin and client areas, so I spent some time playing around with them. I then decided to do in-depth searches for recent forum discussions on these products. The software world changes so quickly.

What did I learn? I learned that ModernBill was recently bought by a bigger company (Parallels) and that the ModernBill software has been very buggy since the release of V5. Wow, and a few minutes ago I was thinking that it was the best option for my money! To add to my shock, almost everyone on the Web Hosting Talk forums seemed to think of WHM.AutoPilot as the "beginners web host billing software".

It's looking like I will probably go with WHMCS for my new billing software, but not before I do more research!

Finding the Synergy Between Control and Chaos

For Thea's (my future brother-in-law) bachelor party, we went to F1 in Boston. F1 is an indoor, high-powered go-cart track. Two tracks actually, but we only raced on one (track 2). The track allows for 10 racers at a time. There were 15 of us, so we raced in two groups. There were two initial races, and the top ten with the best lap times raced in a final championship round. We were told we would have four races, with the fourth race being the championship race, so at least some of us felt cheated out of a possible win.

It was an incredible experience. I've always understood how professional racers constantly search for the balance between losing control and pushing the machine to its limit. If you're afraid to lose control, then you'll never find where that limit is and therefore never be as good as you could be. This fact holds true in many aspects of life as well. But passing the limit is one thing, you must also find a synergy between control and chaos. I grasped hold of that synergy several times tonight.

Life is fragile. We live on the edge every day without even knowing it. It's only when we get really close to losing control that we realize how out of control something can become; when we just barely avoid a car accident or feel the pit in our stomach as we almost fall off a ladder.

This is an interesting realization for me, in that I've never understood why I do well in certain things and yet with others I feel something inside myself holding back. For example, I compared my racing at F1 with the Mazda Rev-It-Up racing a few years ago, in which we raced actual full size Mazda6 cars. There was no speed limit, you wouldn't have to pay for the car if you flipped it over and the most that could happen to you if you knock over a cone, or even drive entirely out of the course area, is that you'd be penalized or not allowed to compete in the final round. Why then, should I hold back? I shouldn't have, but I did. I held back because I knew with enough speed and just the right turning, it was possible to flip the car. Was it instinct? Was it an intelligent risk assessment? Or was I just being chicken shit?

During the F1 racing, I knew the limits, the maximum speed, the track, and I knew I couldn't flip over. So I pushed the limits, over and over. Tires screeching, I drifted around the corners at maximum speed, spinning out only once in 55 laps. I averaged the best lap time out of everyone during the first two races, so my cart started in first place during the last round. Life must have been teaching me to be humble because in 55 laps the one time I spun out happened to be during the championship round. It cost me the round entirely (I ended with 7th place).

This realization also made me understand why I enjoy change and why, as monotonous as it can become, I enjoy driving. It's mental challenge I crave, visual and physical stimulation to challenge my senses. When I'm driving, I know at any moment an accident could happen. This causes me to be alert and take driving very seriously. I cannot settle into a little rut and enjoy it. I'm not satisfied when something is complete or when everyone else wants to sit back and admire their work. Movement. That's what I crave. Whether physical or mental, movement is vital to our growth as a human race.

Music. If you actually listen to and analyze every beat in your head, you begin to create a mental work of art, which, for me at least, seems to instantly transform into emotion. Movement. Always stay moving.

Mistakes are limits. They are dead end roads. When you discover a dead end road you don't park your car and wait for the road to suddenly lead somewhere interesting. You turn around and find another route! Life teaches us lessons. We have the choice to learn from those lessons and use them to make more educated decisions, or to forget the lesson and make our journey that more difficult. If you're lost, you don't throw away a map that has been handed to you, right? So why would you want to throw away anything that will help you live a better life? (If you don't know how to read a map, learn.)

So how does F1 racing have anything to do with learning lessons in life? Well the single time I spun out in 55 laps shows me how even though you think you've got life figured out, even though you were handed the first place position at the start of the race, there is always something new around the corner. Maybe a new lesson, maybe a new idea. The point is this: don't settle for anything. The moment we begin to accept things for the way they are, we age -- we become old and rigid. Finding that synergy, that balance, in life is what keeps us forever young.