Brevity has its place, but no greater a place than thoroughness. Thoroughness takes time, but it also pays a greater dividend.
In whatever you're trying to say or trying to do, stop trying and get to the point.
Thoroughness does not require complexity or volume or heft. It does not require that you undertake a lengthy, prolonged, and arduous journey, like this one.
Clarity never increases by adding things.
When in doubt leave it out, and be doubtful frequently.
If you have a lot to say, you're already saying too much. If you have a lot to do, you're already doing too much.
Start with a single idea, one clearly defined action or one point that you want to get across and express that as simply as possible.
If somebody is about to get hit by a car and you want to convey the danger to them, what do you say?
"Excuse me, sir. There's a ten-thousand pound vehicle coming down that street and if you do not stop walking it will surely hit you and cause bodily harm. May I kindly suggest that you do not cross the street until the vehicle has passed?"
Absurdity! They'd be dead and you'd look like a fool for taking so long.
All writing should be as clear as that. All action and communication should strive to express with such clarity the purpose for its existence, or it should not exist at all.
Get to the point.
In all areas of our life, we should be seeking ways to simplify. Simplicity, as Leonardo Da Vinci said, is the ultimate sophistication. When we simplify, we recognize what is non-essential and remove it, leaving behind only what is essential.
The act of simplifying is not easy, but it yields incredible power. When things are simple, we are not distracted by the non-essential. There is nothing getting in the way of what we're trying to achieve. This distraction-free environment empowers us to think and grow toward our goals more quickly, to feel clarity and ease where before there was always a subtle, seemingly unidentifiable resistance.
When we experience something powerfully simple, it's usually not obvious what makes it so powerful. Simple things exude a quiet confidence that seems to ooze from some distant magical world, giving it unexpected strength.
Think about the various famous quotes you've heard repeated over and over: "Be the change you wish to see in the world", "Love conquers all" "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." All of these exemplify simplicity because the non-essential has been removed. The statements have been reduced to clear, universal truths that we can all identify with.
Simplifying requires clear understanding of purpose. If the purpose is clear, the non-essential becomes obvious and can be removed. If the purpose is ambiguous or unclear, the non-essential mixes with the essential and a pool of chaotic confusion is created.
If I wanted to express that health is very important, more important than say money or treasures or fame or status, I could achieve that by saying, "there are lots of things in the world that are valuable but in the end it's health that is the most valuable."
However, if I identify the purpose of what I'm trying to say — that is to express that health is the most valuable thing — I can remove all the non-essential and arrive at the statement, "health is wealth". So simple, yet so powerful! All of the non-essential has been removed and what remains is a vehicle for fulfilling the purpose of the statement.
In all simple things you will discover this removal of the non-essential, this cutting to the core of what is intended. In powerful writing and communication you will see less ambiguity and more certainty. 'I think there's something powerful about simplicity' becomes 'simplicity is powerful'. 'I think you're very pretty' becomes 'you're beautiful'.
I arrived at my current website layout after thousands of iterations over the past ten years. I'm constantly seeking to remove the non-essential by clarifying the purpose of the website, which is to present my writing online and allow others to share the writing and leave comments.
I'll never be 'done' simplifying because the quest for simplicity evolves alongside the one universal constant in the universe: change.
In the emails that my subscribers receive, I'm constantly searching for ways to simplify. If you compare this Journal email to that of a previous one, you'll find that the footer and signature content have been greatly simplified. When I recognized that the singular purpose of these emails was to share newly published writing, it became obvious that providing lots of links to send people to various social media platforms was non-essential.
Again, removing the non-essential by identifying the ultimate purpose of a thing.
When I decided to make a lifestyle transition in 2010, I began by identifying my long-term lifestyle goal and revising it until it was crystal clear: to travel the world with all my possessions on my back. That clarity instantly identified the non-essential things in my life: my own apartment, a pickup truck, a snowboard, a mountain bike, extra clothes, extra shoes, extra bags, a big digital camera… the list goes on.
With all that non-essential removed, my life feels far more simple than it did before, but it also feels more sophisticated and full of potential. A simple lifestyle does not need to be primitive.
Remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and identifying and removing the non-essential from your life will increase your ability to achieve your goals and free you to experience more of life.
What is your ultimate purpose? If that's too big a question, then what's your primary goal right now? What exactly are you working toward? Meditate on that for a few moments. Zero in on it. When you feel clarity, ask yourself what non-essential things surround that goal. What's getting in the way? What's not necessary?
Seek ways to simplify by clarifying purpose and identifying and removing the non-essential.
In a recent letter, Sandra Pawula writes about being wary of simply accepting easily dispensed advice:
I will - at times - be counter the counter-culture. But not because I actively ascribe to the traditional mores. I know it's all in earnest and who am I to judge. But sometimes, I find it hard to swallow too easily dispensed advice in the new standard of 160 characters.
A "wisdom" tweet recently advised, "Don't work a job that is too small for your spirit."
I replied, "If your spirit is big, is there a job that is too small?"
Evita Ochel interviewed me for her Evolving Beings in Action series several months ago. Recently, she published an excellent ebook, Evolving Beings: This is Your Year, in which she curates bits of wisdom from 52 evolving beings. I'm including my contribution below.
I was sitting at my desk looking out the window at the Boston skyline when a bird flew past and soared off into the distance. I stopped what I was doing and let my eyes and my thoughts follow him. Was this it? Was the rest of my life going to be a repeat of yesterday? Was I going to spend the remainder of my time on Earth playing it safe and making choices based on what society thought was best?
The thought of that spark dying inside scared me to death. Not doing anything at all became more risky than risking it all. Later that evening I wrote an email to my boss and told him I was leaving in two months. I proceeded to sell everything I owned and, inspired by many who shared online their stories of nomadic travel, I formulated a rough plan to spend six months traveling through India, Vietnam, and Nepal with all my possessions on my back in a small 32L backpack.
I didn't have a lot of money to spend (I lost the three rental properties to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy the following year), so I budgeted $3,000 for the entire trip. I had no idea how much traveling on a budget would affect the way this journey changed me. The small budget forced me to stay outside of the big cities and living close to the locals opened my eyes to the inequality, the poverty, and the sheer contrast in reality. The misplaced priorities of many of those living in developed countries, including myself, became blindingly obvious.
While I was buying houses, surfing the Internet, and fixing computers, entire families were dying of hunger and living on sidewalks. Children were scrounging for water and sitting in piles of trash. And not just a few people either, but nearly a billion people!
Yet despite all this, most of the people seemed happy. They seemed grateful to just be alive. Their possessions represented necessity, not fluff for simple pleasures, or junk for impulsive wants. Stuff in their lives had meaning and purpose.
It became incredibly apparent to me that in terms of stuff, I needed very little to live a happy and fulfilled life. Things were simply a distraction from what was real and my ability to make a difference in the world was severely limited by how much physical, emotional, and spiritual baggage I held onto.
I have committed to living a frugal, minimalistic lifestyle in all realms: physical, emotional, and spiritual and the freedom this enables allows me to explore all areas of my life with an open mind, an open heart, and an open soul.
Wisdom I Share With You
- Recognize your completeness and the utter beauty that surrounds you and exists within you. Search for the lesson in each situation and donʼt allow fear or pressure from the status quo to enslave your life.
- Find peace and contentment within each moment and be grateful for everything and everyone: we are all connected and each person contributes to supporting the existence of everyone else.
- Free yourself of attachment to things and learn to recognize universal truths. The most valuable things in the world cannot be bought or sold and you already possess everything you need to obtain them. Ask how you can do more with less.
- Look forward, look far into your future, not to create plans or set goals but to anticipate how you will wish you had spent your time. When you die, how do you want the world to look different than today? Is there something that you want to change more than anything else? Go do that. Search for the first step that leads in that direction and then start walking. Ask how your choices affect others and accept responsibility for making the best choice.
- It's easy to get distracted and weighed down by time, but it can either be your friend or your enemy. Time can either be a vessel for change and exploration or a prison for a stagnant and lifeless existence. The choice is yours and the responsibility to do something meaningful with your life is also yours.
When you say less, you emphasize more.
You may not be able to say more, but what you do say will be heard.
Half attention becomes full attention.
Scanned writing becomes writing that is read.
Discarded opinions become opinions that are taken into consideration.
Saying less increases the emphasis on what is said. Saying more increases the time, effort, and expense required to listen.
Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting.
You are statistically guaranteed to reach more ears by talking more; it's easy to get attention by publishing every day. But talking and publishing every day are not the only ways to practice and improve communication.
You can write and ruminate every day without talking and publishing every day. What you do makes up the difference between receiving attention and holding attention.
Would you rather have people hearing you or listening to you?
After launching this Journal a few weeks ago, I realized that I was beginning to diverge from the simplicity I so highly valued on my site. I now had Thoughts and Reflections, Essays and Journals, Poems and Marginalia.
I found myself feeling more and more suffocated by the complexity. Should I publish this as an Essay or a Reflection? What if the writing was informative but not reflective? Do all my Reflections need to be reflective? Do all my Essays need to be long?
Leonardo Da Vinci said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. I think in my attempt to simplify, I added unnecessary complexity by assuming that I was adding sophistication.
The complexity became a creative barrier that discouraged me from remaining open-minded. Instead of just writing, I had to write and think inside boxes.
I didn't want that! I wanted to stretch and breathe, to write and share.
The idea for segregating my writing was born earlier this year when I learned about a new feature in WordPress 3.0: Custom Post Types.
The old way of displaying different types of content in WordPress was messy: If I wanted to publish 'Thoughts' and show them separately from regular posts, I needed to create a category called 'Thoughts' and then hack the WordPress theme to display posts in that category separately from regular posts.
With Custom Post Types however, my writing could be logically separated into different types. Instead of fiddling with Categories, I could simply create a new post type, publish my writing there, and then use the standard WordPress templates to design how the content should appear.
(In retrospect I realized that this thinking was a classic example of discovering a new tool and then looking for, or creating, a problem to solve with the tool -- a common habit that sneaks up on engineers.)
How could I simplify my approach? What could I learn from others? How were other online writers organizing their published work?
Seth Godin writes different length posts but doesn't separate his blog post writing into different types; he publishes different lengths and calls them one thing.
There was no need to separate my writing into Essays, Reflections, and Poems. I write poems so infrequently that publishing them as Essays will be fine. So, I got rid of Reflections and Poems and combined them into Essays.
My home page was previously set up to show my latest Thought, Reflection/Poem, and Essay, but what I really wanted it to achieve was a quick overview of my published content, a clear method of subscribing, and a clear way of connecting with me -- a long list of my essays wouldn't achieve that.
How could I simplify my approach? What could I learn from online publishers whose home pages I loved?
Craig Mod has a beautifully simple home page. His liberal use of whitespace makes things clear and it encourages you to scroll down and explore.
You'll notice how the further down you go, the denser the content gets -- the further you commit to exploring, the more content he gives you.
I also love how when you hover over his name at the top, you're presented with a clear way of connecting with him on Twitter and Google+.
I now had ideas for home page simplicity, but I still needed a way to present my latest work. Even though I had simplified my types of writing, I still had Essays, Journals, Thoughts, and Margin Notes to work with.
How could I display my recent work in a list format that was easy to read?
Chris Pearson's sidebar contains lists of various posts in beautifully color-coded sections. I love how the color of each section is reinforced when you hover over the items in that list. The angled cut on each header also makes them easier on the eyes.
Using those design ideas, I sat down yesterday and spent 10 hours redesigning my home page.
I tried Chris' colored headers, but I realized they were too loud for my style.
I didn't like Craig's Twitter and Google+ buttons at the top of the page, so I put mine at the bottom.
My home page now feels congruent with my core style of simplicity and cleanliness and it solves the problem of presenting my latest content. I started with a clean slate, took ideas that I loved from other designs, and added my own twist.
When it comes to design, much of what I create is inspired by something or someone else. When I come across a design or element of style that I find aesthetically appealing, I stop and ask myself why I find it appealing.
Understanding why something looks nice -- or why something is comfortable, or why something is easy to use -- not only helps me better understand good design, it also helps me understand myself.
I often tell people that I'm not a designer, but I'm beginning to believe that we're all designers in one way or another.
To design is to envision something that isn't there and then pull together pieces of the universe to create it. The more we understand ourselves and the world around us -- the more we release what we think we already know -- the better designers we will be.
This extends to other areas of life as well: If we don't understand why we do, or do not, enjoy something, then how can we effectively design our life?
If we don't know why we're writers, or coaches, or designers, or programmers, or explorers, or entrepreneurs, or connectors, or yoga teachers, how can we pull together the pieces of the universe necessary to live a life in harmony with what makes us who we are?
Life is not an ever-growing collection of successes and failures. It's not a bag of decisions, opinions, mistakes, or mishaps, or a rucksack full of bricks that you're condemned to drag through the sludges of time.
Life is more like the stroke of a paintbrush, emptying itself of all that clings to it and refining its precision with the passage of time. It's the vessel that exists to hold water, effortlessly releasing its contents to the next destination.
It's important to remember that not every destination can be reached by a well-paved path: some destinations require taking flight. When it's time to fly you just can't fill a giant bag with everything in your life and expect that plane to soar.
If where you're going is important, decide what really matters and take responsibility for your freedom. Hold tight to everything and everyone that will support your voyage and let go of everything else. Embrace your essence and when there is doubt let love lighten your load: a life painted in love outweighs a voyage completed unprepared.
Everything is noise until we understand it. To put meaning to the meaningless, our senses process noise and help us find direction. But when our senses are constantly being overwhelmed by noise -- the noise in our head; the noise in our lives; the noise of the status quo -- their sensitivity decreases and they become unreliable instruments.
Practicing sensory minimalism, that is stepping back and observing the noise instead of trying to process it, increases our ability to focus on what matters and awards us with a better sense of direction.
The skill of observing noise is best learned through frequent changes in our perspective: When experiencing something new and unusual, we have no choice but to release ourselves from the noise and take a step back.
Change your perspective and you will expand your consciousness. Escape the patterns and you will minimize the background noise. Place yourself in new and unfamiliar situations and you will have no choice but to reflect, observe, and regain awareness of where you stand in relation to what matters most in your life.
"How many bags?"
"Just one" I replied, motioning to the small 30L backpack on my shoulder.
"And how much luggage?"
"None... just this one bag."
It's as if people can not comprehend someone traveling with only one bag. Everyone, from the airline ticket attendant, to the taxi driver, to the clerk at the hotel, seemed to insist that I must have more luggage.
I sat down in an empty section of Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport and put my bag down on the seat next to me. As I watched people wrestle with multiple suitcases, I looked over at my lonely bag and remembered how different my life used to be. Continue reading
I'm leaving for India in exactly one week and I'm determined not to leave any major possessions behind that would be a burden on anyone.
The last major possession was my truck. I expected it would take at least a few days to sell. After all, it's not like there's anything special about my 11 year-old gas guzzling pickup truck with 215,000 miles on it, right? Everyone I talked to about selling it said I might get $1,000.
Within 30 minutes of listing the truck on CraigsList, I had half-a-dozen emails from people who said they had cash and wanted it right now... for $1,200! When I exchanged the title 6 hours later for $1,400 in cash, I had almost fifty emails in my inbox from people who wanted to buy it.
I've sold several other things in a similar fashion. Several boxes of bathroom tiles that were left over from when I owned rental properties a few years ago sold for $50 in 3 hours. Continue reading
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
This post started as a comment in response to Colin Wright's post on Your Money or Your Life. The comment grew long enough that I decided to turn my response into this post.
There are two things that cannot be bought with money: Time and Happiness.
Sure, you might be able to "buy" someone's time, but you cannot buy back time that has already been spent! Therefore time is an invaluable resource. Likewise, happiness cannot be bought. You can buy things that you think will make you happy, but the happiness itself will always come from somewhere inside. You really don't need anything external to obtain it!
I find it amazing how many people go through their entire lives thinking that more money equals more happiness. They get stressed and unhappy due to the absence of money and naturally they assume having more of it will reverse the effect. In reality, what's making them unhappy are the choices they've made; the little luxuries they've decided are absolutely necessary to live their life (cable TV, cars, expensive foods, tobacco, alcohol, big house, movies, etc.).
All of those things provide a very temporary and unsustainable happiness. As a result, their life becomes a snowballing roller coaster of wanting more and more. The more they want, the more money they convince themselves they need. The more money they need, the more stressed out and unhappy they become. Where does it end? Sadly, for most people it ends with death.
I come from a middle class family. While my perspective is not the same as someone from a lower class family, I can see that the same patterns emerge from one class to the next. The things everyone truly cares about are pretty much the same. One persons' poor, is another persons' rich. The family we're born into often defines the living standard by which we judge and perceive the world around us. But how different is the rich person from the poor person? Do they experience a different kind of happiness? A different kind of sadness? A different kind of love? How about hunger? Do rich and poor people get different feelings from laughter?
I speak as a single guy, with very few true responsibilities. I have no kids to take care of or family that needs to be looked after. I understand that my perspective and ideas may not apply to other situations. Nevertheless, there are many very happy families living with far less than the average family in the United States. Do they experience a lower quality happiness? When their kids laugh and play together, do they experience a lower quality joy? True happiness isn't something that can be bought with money.
We're all human. If we really want to be happy we need to look deep inside ourselves for happiness. It's there. Everyone has it. No one person has less happiness-making-capacity than the next. It's really tough to forget that all the material stuff around us, regardless of how much importance we place on it, really has nothing to do with our true happiness. That's a tough pill to swallow when some of us work day and night to afford the stuff.
So what better way to find the true source of happiness than to strip yourself of all things material? I grew up in a relatively rural area, a small town in New Hampshire with a forest and a lake for a backyard. I was home schooled and spent most of my childhood outside exploring nature. When friends would visit for the first time, their impression would always be one of amazement. I never understood that. At least not until I moved away and lived in the city for two years. When I visited my parents on the weekends, I started to feel something I never felt before. Visiting my parents house, the very place I grew up, started to feel like going on vacation! I felt so much appreciation for the place.
That experience made me realize how the little things we take for granted can spoil our entire life. Have you ever come back from a camping trip and felt a little more grateful for having a shower? How about when the power comes back on after being out for more than a day? We should feel that way every minute of every day for the life we have. For working legs, eyes, hands, ears, and mouth. We should be grateful for every second that passes; for each beat of our heart, and each breath we take.
Take a deep breath of air right now. Close your eyes and fill your chest with life-giving air. Appreciate it a little more than you did the previous breath. Do it right now. I'll wait.
Didn't that feel good? You take an average of 20,000 of those every single day. That's a lot to be grateful for!
I've decided to get rid of nearly all my material possessions because I know it will make me feel more grateful. I know it will enable me to see more clearly. We humans (yes, even modern ones) don't need very much to survive. Food and shelter. That's it. Most of us are fortunate enough to have working feet to help us travel, yet so few of us use them for real commuting. What about money? When we remove all modern-day comforts and really drill down to the bare necessities, we don't need very much of that either. Of course how much money will differ depending on where we're living, but most of us live way above necessity.
Find something you own that you haven't used in over a month. Now find someone that you can give it to. Don't worry about how much it cost you or why you originally bought it. You haven't used it in over a month and you most likely won't use it for the foreseeable future. Just find something and give it away. By giving it away you'll not only build good karma, you'll also feel a little more appreciative of all the stuff you currently have.
The more we have, the less we appreciate. The less we have, the more we appreciate. Do you want to appreciate more or less of life?
A chapter of my life is coming to a close. It's been a chapter of personal discovery and new awareness, of material possessions and excessiveness; it's been a chapter of alternate paths and of decision making, of introspection and stepping out of comfort zones.
In the past decade, I've gone through living in over a dozen different places, including tiny attics, basements, offices, studios, and entire floors of houses. I've spent outrageous money for rent ($950/mo for a 450sqft studio), utilities ($500 heat bills), and other bills (cable, broadband, etc), all in the name of independence.
I've owned lots of stuff. For the first seven years of having a drivers license, I had a different car each year. For six years I was a landlord with three multi-family houses. I took care of all the property maintenance myself which meant owning lots of different tools. I had several TVs, various computers, gym equipment, a kayak, mountain bike, and the list goes on. To make things worse, the plentiful storage space provided by the properties easily masked the volume of "stuff" I owned. I feel as though I've had nearly everything material that I could have wanted. Oh, and I slaved away to afford the stuff, sometimes working 60 - 80 hours a week, sometimes working three jobs.
But why? The lifestyle I've always wanted to live can best be described as that of a nomad; someone who travels from place to place with no permanent residence (or at least can travel). Such a person wouldn't own very much. They wouldn't own a house, a car, a desktop computer, or a TV. They would only own what they can carry with them. Living such a lifestyle would allow me to freely move around and spend more time exploring and learning things of interest. Less time would be spent trying to pay expenses and care for material possessions (storage, maintenance, etc.).
I've always wondered what the purpose of life was and the reason for my existence. If you asked my dad, he would tell you that I was asking those questions when I was five years old. While my dad always seemed to have answers to my questions, they never satisfied me (which my dad agrees is a good thing). I believe we each need to find our own purpose and blaze our own trail through life. No one can give us a map or an instruction manual (and if they try, beware!).
Earlier this year I came to the conclusion that finding my purpose would be much easier if I had less material stuff cluttering and clouding my world. At the very least, having less stuff would give me more freedom and less to worry about (a feeling I got a taste of when my three houses were foreclosed on and I no longer had to worry about maintaining them).
So I've decided to change my lifestyle and transition to a more nomadic one. I've begun selling or giving away all my remaining possessions, a process that will continue for the next few months. I've found a cheap room to rent that's close to work and I'm living with roommates for the first time in my life, something my highly individualistic personality has always been opposed to. My end-of-the-year goal is to be living with only the stuff I can carry on my back. Even my pickup truck will eventually go (that will be the last page in this closing chapter).
The direction I'm headed in the next chapter is almost exactly where I envisioned myself being in ten years nearly a decade ago (perhaps even longer). But none of it was planned. Everything just sort of fell into place, the same way the tires on your car propel you forward without you fully understanding exactly how pressure from your foot translates into moving several tons of metal. It's a strange feeling; to know you always had an idea of where you wanted to be and somehow, through all the possible things that could have happened, you're ending up there.
There were so many decisions I made that ended up not working out for one reason or another (investments, relationships, business plans, etc.), and those unexpectedly resulted in my life being pushed closer and closer to the path I'm now on. Even though I never knew how it would happen, I also never lost sight of the direction I wanted my life to go. Now I can clearly see myself headed there. 🙂
I spent Saturday and Sunday working at my parents house, doing yard work and helping my dad tile the front porch. The weather was beautiful and it was so nice spending time outside for a change. I've always loved the outdoors however my current occupation does not allow for much outdoor activity. As a "computer guy", all of my work is done inside. Electronics and nature simply don't mix. Sure, I can use my laptop outside (which is where I'm writing this post right now) but the reality of it is, I cannot run my whole career sitting outside on my laptop. But, some people do.
I've heard stories of computer programmers who make a living accepting contract work over the Internet. They'll sit on a beach somewhere, with their laptop, programming and sipping fruity drinks. Then there are those who make a living running an online business that doesn't require anything except their laptop and a few hours of their time.
But maybe it has nothing to do with using my computer outside. Maybe I'm just sick of using computers themselves. Maybe I've been using them my entire life and have just come to accept that since it's what I know best, its what I'm meant to do. If that were so, why do I feel so undecided? Why am I not sure of what I want to do? That is so unlike me.
I'm a person of assurance. I don't do things because I think it's what I'm supposed to do, I do them because I know they're what I'm supposed to do. I understand that no one person can be sure of everything and that life is full of surprises and unexpected events. We must go with the flow. Never the less, when I feel myself losing control over something, I tend to hesitate and question myself -- question whether I'm doing the right thing. This is not a position I enjoy being in and it makes concentrating on anything difficult.
So every time I gain a new insight, I reanalyze my life. I do a systems check to make sure everything I'm doing still makes sense. I check to make sure what I'm doing is still in line with my goals. But how can I do this if I'm expecting and depending on the results of this and that? I have always followed the motto "if you want something done right, do it yourself" and I live my life that way. Life will always contain the unexpected. In life, as in programming, more variables equal an increased possibility for the loss of control.
My solution to this is to live life expecting nothing. Without expectation there will be no disappointment. Attachment creates waste and drains life. Ownership creates unnecessary work. Expect less. Own less. Attach to less. My Dad has always said "Less is more". I've never understood this more fully than I do now.