Trust your swing

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I hit golf balls today for the first time in twenty years. My brother has really gotten into golf and so I’m starting to take it up.

I’ve had a bunch of abdominal surgery and because of that I can’t perform a normal golf swing. My brother talked to a golf pro buddy of ours and came up with a modified swing for me to try. I can’t really rotate my core too far so I bring my back swing only about 40% and my follow through is also greatly abbreviated.

With a little coaching from my brother I began smacking balls with his gap wedge. He watched me swing and told me that I was pulling my head up and my front leg had way too much bend in it. These were things I couldn’t feel while hitting the golf ball.

At the end of about 45 minutes I had hit about thirty balls and of that three were “good” shots. Of course as most golfers know, “good”is a relative term. They were good shots for me.

One in particular hit the target I was aiming at about 50 yards away. Before I swung club I said to myself trust your swing. I settled into my stance, addresses the ball, took the club back, kept my head down, quieted my front leg and swung my club. It felt effortless and the ball arched beautifully in the air hitting a basket about 50 yards away.

The best advice my brother gave me today was to not worry about the result. By doing this I could focus on just swinging and by doing so trust that the result will take care of itself.

In life it’s good to have mentor or someone that can help you see your errors and offer advice. But when you get up to hit the golf ball it’s just you. You are responisble for implementing the advice, you are responsible for your mental state and you are directly responsible for the result. When I act in life too often I worry about the result. I worry that I’m not mentally or physically up to the task and fail miserably.

If you want to do anything in life you have to be prepared to be bad at it to begin with. This is a normal part of the process. Hitting golf balls today reminded me of the quote “if its important enough to do, it’s important enough to do it badly in the beginning”.

Anything we try new in life will require us to learn. Learning by definition is a correction of or lack of knowledge or skill. I highly recommend taking up golf or anything new. The feeling of accomplishment when you step up tot the ball, internalize the feedback of a coach, consciously make the necessary adjustments then just trusting your swing, and hitting great shot, is an amazing feeling.

Life like golf is all about adjusting and learning. In order to trust your swing learn all you can from others, reflect on your precious experience and act without worry about the result.

Why play games?

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As adults we forget that we need to play. Playing is a great way to share common experiences with our tribe, exercise our bodies and brains and stoke up our competitive fire.

Cornhole is an awesome game. If you’ve not played I suggest you go out buy some boards and start tossing bags. It is my preferred mode of play at the moment.

I’ve been playing for about six months and it’s brought my brother and I closer together and also helped strengthen the bonds of friendship between us and some guys we’ve met recently. Now when we get together we talk about past victories and defeats and make new shared new memories every time we play.

Playing Cornhole helps not only build better relationships but it builds better brains and bodies. Now I wouldn’t suggest playing Cornhole will take the place of your daily workout but it’s a lot better than sitting in front of a t.v.

Playing games like Cornhole also helps to improve your cognitive function. Learning a new game that combines novel physical movements with mental strategy can help make your brain more resistant to age related damage and form new connections that are beneficial even when not playing. Your brain literally rewires itself.

Competition is a key part of playing Cornhole. Every Cornhole game has a winner and a loser. While you play you get immediate feed back with the scoring of each round. This helps you adjust your throw and strategy in an attempt to win. Having the sting of defeat or the thrill of victory can lead you down a road of continual improvement. This also can carry over into your everyday life. When you play games you must practice, be focused and adaptable in order to win.

Playing games is fun. It is necessary to strengthen the bonds within your tribe, help to expand it by providing a great way to get to know someone new, through the element of competition, and to make your body and brain stronger.

I highly recommend playing some type of game everyday. It could be cards, golf, horse, or Cornhole. Playing is a primal activity that when done in a spirit of friendly competition can make you better in all aspects of your life.

Learn a new game and go out and play!

Have a great day.

Brad

http://americancornhole.com/

Social anxiety

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Anxiousness in social situations can lead to isolation. My work and personal life has suffered because I’ve succumbed to social anxiety for a long time. When I feel poorly it usually intensifies. I believe that there is a huge biological component to my social anxiety and isolation seeking behavior. But there may be another cause which I’ve not thought of.

I listen to Stephan Molineux a lot. He is the owner of Freedomainradio.com.
His website has over 65million downloads. It is the number one philosophy show on the planet. He said something interesting about social anxiety that I’ve overlooked in the past.

A caller was looking for advice to deal with his social anxiety disorder. After chronically the events of his horrible childhood, Stephan explained to him why he felt social anxiety. He told the caller that if you are so full of these traumatic experiences it makes it difficult to even make small talk with other people.

Stephan used a great analogy: if you’ve suffered childhood trauma, it’s like you’ve been abducted by aliens and you have video of it but you can’t show anyone.

I’ve felt that way a lot. My life from the age of 12 has mostly been chronic pain, illness, hospital stays, doctor visits, and surgery. In between that I work and go home. I’ve had a few adventures and interesting experinces but the trauma of all the other stuff crowds them out.

I’ve come up with a process for decreasing my social anxiety and isolation.

1. Focus on my health. If I hurt or feel poorly then I won’t feel like socializing. Feeling better is the key. I am working on lowering inflammation and increasing strength and stamina.

2. Talk about what I’ve been through and what I’m currently struggling with. I’ve done that through blogging and attending a ostomy support group.

3. Seek new experiences now. Even though I’ve not had many positive experinces up until now, I can start today. This gives me opportunities to meet new people doing something I enjoy and having stories to share.

4. In new social situations: ask and listen. This is a great way to integrate yourself into a new group. The best thing to do is to ask open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.

5. Don’t project negative outcomes. I’ve done this so many times when I’ve been invited to a party or out with people. I project how bad of a time I’ll
Have and how I’ll have nothing to talk about and so I don’t go.

6. I am learning to tell my stories in a more compelling and positive way. The stories I tell myself is where I first start. Then in social situations I feel like I have something to contribute l.

Now I say to myself I need to let go of the need to know and let the future flow. I tell myself to open for an adventure. I did this the other day when my brother invited me out to dinner after work with some friends.

In the past I would have said no because I was tired and didn’t see the point. But Im glad I went because it was one of the best times of my life.

Trust yourself, be open to new experinces and be comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen when you enter into social interactions.

In Zen there is a concept called being comfortable in the void. For me this means to be comfortable in the unknown.

When I’m around others I have anxiety about what I’m going to talk about. I feel like my life isn’t a relatable life to most people. By following these six steps I’ve been able to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships and have a lot more fun.

Building a bigger and stronger tribe is vital to my survival. We are all social animals who need to interact with others. We are wired to be part of a tribe.

Your success and happiness depend on your relationships.

Have a great day.

Brad

The bumpy road

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For the last couple of months I’ve been really noticing how bad the roads are where I live. No matter where I went the roads were rough. Every time I went out I felt like my car was going to shake a part. It was very disconcerting.

My brother had been telling me for a few months now that I needed new tires. Like a lot of things I kept putting it off until I had no choice. I went to get my oil changed and they told me I better get them soon or die in a horrible fiery crash. (They didn’t say that but they said I needed to get them ASAP.)

I waited a week and finally got my new tires. The first thing I noticed as I drove home was how the roads weren’t nearly as bumpy and uncomfortable as I had previously felt. They were the same roads, I was in the same car going over the same bumps in those roads, but I was experiencing them in a totally different way.

Every time I would hit a bump I would get agitated and upset. Chronic stress is a huge issue for modern humans. Our stress detection and stress responses were not designed for the asphalt jungle they were evolved over millennia to cope with the threats in the wilds of Africa.

Fortunately for all of us we can use our prefrontal cortex and more modern evolutionary capacities to circumvent this primal hard wiring. Today we all have a chance to listen to those who would advise us today and from the past to change our “philosophical tires”. to help us all more peaceful, productive and happier enlightened animals.

Not only could I more easily absorb the small bumps when I finally had my new tires installed, I also found that my braking and traction on the road greatly increasd as well. I am now able to stop quicker and avoid dangerous situations more easily.

In life our personal philosophy is a lot like the tires on our car. It is the interface we have between ourselves and the outside world. Our personal philosophy determines how we interpret what is threat and what is not. It guides our actions so that we go towards what is good and avoid what is bad. When I put on a new pair of tires on my car the bumps that were so jarring before were now virtually unnoticeable. The bumps are still there but I don’t feel them. If I encounter big potholes in the road or any other hazard I am now better equipped to avoid those as well

There is always a chance that when you change out your tires you can make your ride even worse. Be careful where you source your ideas you incorporate into your personal philosophy because untrue ideas lead to more pain and fear when going down the road of life.

Three schools of philosophical thought have greatly influenced my thinking. I chose these based upon reason. Stoicism, the Freedom Philosophy and of course Zen have all aided me in my quest to be more peaceful and effective in this world. They have all added greatly in my ability to go down the road of life without fearing that the small bumps will destroy me and confidence I will be able to negotiate the bigger bumps as well. These three schools of thought like a good pair of tires have helped me to avoid the car destroying pot holes in life and to simply ignore the small bumps without too much concern.

I’ve learned that I should listen to my brother when he tells me it’s time for new tires. I’ve also learned throughout my life that when I’m struggling to endure even the small bumps in the road or when I’ve driven myself into a ditch, I should listen to myself, when I ask: Is it time to change my philosophy?

These links below have been invaluable to me.

http://www.fee.org/files/doclib/20121116_FreedomPhilosophyThe.pdf

Introduction to the Freedom Philosophy by Leonard Read and other authors.

Zenhabits.net – great daily Zen read

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/ excellent resource on stoicism

http://www.stoics.com/seneca_epistles_book_1.html

Seneca’s letters

Have a great day.

Brad

The Waking Dead

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We are all going to die. That is inevitable. On average about 152,000 people die everyday. That’s roughly 105 people dying every minute. Why dwell on something so distressing as death on a Monday?

I bring this to your attention because if you are reading this post then you are not dead:)

The above statistics are for physical death. Life requires death. That is part of the cycle. We can not have one without the other. There is no escaping it. But there is a type of death we can avoid.

My fear of death isn’t about the actual process or what happens to me afterward I die, it’s what occurs while I’m alive that scares me. I don’t believe in a hereafter. My fear centers the here and now and the consequences of my actions.

The result of the fear of living is what I call “waking death”. This is a state of fear that produces apathy, procrastination and paralysis.

I have a bad habit of talking about doing something and not doing it. If I do accomplish what I’ve talked about it usual takes me months or even years to complete. When I fail to act the possible consequences of these as of yet unrealized actions still occupy massive amounts of bandwidth. This creates paralysis.

This weekend I did two things that I have been talking about for a while. One thing I did, I had talked about doing for over 21 years and the other action I took, Id been debating about for a few months. I had been talking about going to a support group for a childhood disease I still suffer from, since I was the age of 16. The other task was simply joining a wholesale membership club which I had vacillated about doing for at least four months. Now both tasks are done, new opportunities exist and new actions are possible. That is how we grow.

Following through on these tasks was life affirming. Unfinished business leaves us feeling weakened and ineffective. Each time I accomplish something I’ve been putting off I feel momentum building in my life. One action builds upon the other.

When I allow the fear of consequences to stop me from acting I am experiencing a type of living death. Unlike physical death I can do something about it.

How many people are dead while they are still breathing? I can’t find any statistics on that but I would say most people are part of the waking dead. I know to stave off becoming once again one of the waking dead, each day I must actively seek life and take action. Today is the day to live.

I would highly recommend doing at least one thing today that you’ve been talking about doing but haven’t made the time for. The time to act is now.

If I keep waiting for the future to act to create the things I truly want, someday my future will be physical death, and the time for action will be over. That’s okay because I don’t fear death. The only fear I have is that I don’t make the most of my life in the moment.

Physical Death will come to all of us but we don’t have to suffer a waking death. Life must be sought after, nurtured and looked after each day anew.

I don’t want to die with my song still inside of me. Each time I act I overcome apathy, procrastination and paralysis and I sing another verse of my song into the universe.

Hope you have a great day.

Brad

Stats via http://www.howmanyarethere.org/how-many-people-die-a-day/

Why are we here?

I read two things that really affected how I interacted with others today. One concept came from a small book about leadership and the other from a seminal book on Zen.

The leadership book is titled “Lead: simply”. I bought the book on the site Givemore.com. It is a small book but packed with a lot of wisdom. The author shared this truism:

“We are here to make good things happen for other people.”

This is something that helped me tremendously when talking and interacting with customers, co-workers and family today.

The idea of doing good things for others is nothing new in religion, philosophy or humanism. When we help others we help to alleviate suffering. That is the main tenet of Buddhism that I really like.

We can do this by making a great product for customers, proving outstanding customer service, folding a load of laundry at home or simply by using soft words instead of sharp words with your family.

The second idea that I acted upon today was from the the classic “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. In the first chapter I read about the Zen concept of duality and non-duality. We are all dependent and independent of each other and the world around us. This is a profound concept when thinking about the suffering of those around you. We are all connected. But to alleviate suffering we must act as an individual.

I’m agnostic but I like a lot of the actionable ideas from Zen Buddhism and from anywhere else I can find them. Zen in particular for me is a practical way to quiet my mind and have a more relaxed body. It also helps me to focus on the moment and those actions I can immediately do now, instead of constantly being concerned with the future. We can only act in the moment and alleviate suffering in the now.

I have no problem with rational self-interest. Everyone acts out of self-interest. I know when I act to help others or make good things happen for them I am doing so because it makes me feel good to see them smile.

Everyone is secretly suffering from something. We all have our crosses to bear and we are all connected. Why not be kind to others and help where you can? Less suffering in the world is good for everyone.

When I am anxious and fearful of the future it’s usually because I’ve not recently done anything to help make good things happens for others.

When I do make good things happens for others I feel like I’ve found the answer to the question: Why am I here?

Have a great day

Brad

Zen and the art of waiting

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Waiting sucks but it’s a big part of life. Over the weekend I had to wait and it gave me an opportunity to re-learn some life lessons I have forgotten lately.

This weekend I waited for about two hours in the parking lot of Fox Brothers BBQ. They have the best brisket on the planet. Even though their beef is delicious I normally wouldn’t have waited that long to eat anywhere.

I went with my brother and my two nephews. We were meeting a large party celebrating the graduation of one of my brother’s friends.

We got there and we were told it would be an hour to an hour and a half wait. It was a little cloudy out but it didn’t look like it was going to rain for a while and I was feeling pretty good.

The others in the party starting to arrive about 45 minutes later and they were standing in a large group talking and laughing. I talked to the few people I knew and withdrew to get under the roof that projected about a foot past the smokehouse. The sky began to darken and storm clouds began to gather.

My nephews joined me under the awning and we waited for the rain to come. Thirty minutes later it came and soon party was single file huddled under about a foot of the roof overhang against the smokehouse wall, trying to stay dry. We were told it would be another five minutes and our table would be ready.

As the rain increasd the people eating outside were getting soaked so they all went in. So our wait time increased again.

We finally made the run for the door and crowded into the area right in front of the kitchen. Another twenty minutes went by then finally they had one table available for only 12 of the 22. We let the younger folks and those from out of town take that table. Another ten minutes ticked by and finally we were seated.

The staff were amazingly friendly, the food was hot and delicious and the other customers were all very cool. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. Not only because of the above reasons but because of what I learned.

During this two plus hour ordeal I learned a few things. Waiting is both a physical and a mental activity and in order to patiently wait I had to take care of both my body and my brain.
Here are five things I found helpful when waiting.

1. Take care of your physical health. My brother after he found out the wait time went to the bar and brought myself and my nephews cold bottled water. He is a thoughtful dude.

Dehydration causes mental and physical effects that make waiting uncomfortable. Don’t be thirsty if you don’t have to be.

2. Be productive

Before it rained I finished up my blog post “Squeaky Sneaker” standing in the middle of Fox Brothers’ parking lot. I even took my shoe off and took a photo for the post while waiting. If you don’t blog, read up on something that will improve your life or learn something you can share that will help someone else or strike up a conversation with someone new.

3. Look after somone else during the period of waiting.

My two nephews hung with me and I looked after them most of the time we were waiting. That helped keep my mind off my own discomfort.

4. Be in the moment. Even though I was not thrilled to be waiting in a parking lot for 2 hours , that reality all I had in that moment. While researching my “squeaky sneaker” blog post I ran across a Zen quote that really helped me while I waited

“nothing happens next”.

The moment is all we have and that is enough.

5. Be Grateful for what you do have.
There were times I really struggled mentally. I thought what has my brother drug me into?
In those moments I consciously reminded myself about how grateful I am that my brother includes me in everything, that he got me my phone, he’s paid for thousands of dinners and how awesome my two nephews are.

Gratitude is a powerful emotion that helps to calm the brain and body. When we are constantly striving for what’s next our brains and body are stressed. It causes cognitive dissonance. Our brains strive to rectify this by plotting a course in order to achieve what we want. Our brain motivates our body by producing feelings of discomfort.

If we acknowledge what we have already, that allows resonance to replace dissonance in our bodies and brains.. When we do this its like all of our cells take a deep breathe and relax in unison.

All of life can feel like we are perpetually waiting in some type of parking lot, waiting to satisfy a desire in the future. We wile away our days waiting in nervous anticipation for the next promotion, the next comment on our new blog post, the perfect girl to come into our lives, a better house to live in, a fridge stocked with grass fed beef or pain free body. But if we are constantly waiting to feel happy in the future, what will our present be like today?

The truth is that life is essentially waiting for death. What we do with the moments we have until we die constitutes our life. Why wait for a future moment to be “happy” when we have so much that we can do in the moment to feel peaceful and fulfilled?

The same lessons I learned in the Fox Brothers’ parking lot waiting to eat delicious brisket also translates to my everyday life.

These are the five things I’ll keep in mind today.

1. Take care of your health.
2. Be productive with your time.
3. Focus on alleviating the suffering of others.
4. Be in the moment. Enjoy where you are and with who you are with.
5. Be grateful for what you do have.

I read a quote once that said, a great book is something that reminds us of what we already know. This is true about these five life lessons. I know what to do to be happier but I lose my way a lot. Sometimes it takes a 2 hour wait in the Fox Brothers’ parking lot to remind me of the simple things that I can control to be happy now.

Hope you have a great day.

Brad