“Cannon baaaalllllll!” I watch from the opposite end of the pool as my son bravely careens into the water. The other adults in the pool (who are all trying not to get their hair wet) scoff at the massive wave of water they just got hit with.
They see a “little kid.” Young and naive.
I see my son. Who, at one point in his life, hated water so much, he protested baths for a week.
Kids are allowed to change. They’re allowed to grow up. In fact, we expect them to.
But for some reason, we decide that….at some point…..they’re done. They reach 18….or 21…or “married-with-kids,” and they’re “all grown up.” They are who they are.
Sure, we may not continue to mark their height on the wall. They’re done shooting up like a beanstalk.
But that doesn’t mean they’re done growing.
It’s just….that growth….is no longer physical. It’s no longer measurable in pencil marks.
But here’s the thing. Humans love SAME. CERTAIN. And PREDICTABLE.
We cling to KNOWN QUANTITIES. And we resist change.
Once we decide so-and-so is such-and-such, we leave it at that.
Box that shit up, and tie it with a bow.
Why? Well, if I had to guess….I’d say it’s a serial case of disappointing-ice-cream-itus.
What the hell is that?
It’s the experience of going to Dairy Queen, and ordering the same Smartie Blizzard. Every. Damn. Time.
I do this.
And I do it, because I know it made me happy in the past. And guess what? I want to feel happy again. Therefore, I order it. For the thousandth time.
Because, heaven forbid, I order something new, and it’s a disappointment….and I’m sitting there, stuffing my face full of disappointing ice cream…..wishing I had ordered the thing I KNEW I would love. For sure.
It’s a combination of hedging my bets on the surest outcome, not wanting to experience regret…..and pure motha-fucking LAZINESS.
The trusted brand of happiness
OK. But am I the only one? And does it stop at ice-cream?
We all do this kind of thing. And disappointing ice-cream? Can take many forms.
My parents, for instance.
They live in a house that could be the set of a 1980s movie. The bar in the basement literally has beer on the shelves, from 1983.
Their lives could be defined as a struggle for homeostasis.
Anything that throws them off of “same old same old” is like a real-life Pac-Man invader. They try so hard to outrun change. Clinging to the same brand of happiness that they’ve trusted their whole entire lives.
In fact, my mom was wearing an outfit the other day, that I can remember her wearing when I was in Kindergarten…..30 years ago. White turtle neck underneath a red Northern Reflections sweatshirt. Again. 80s.
So for them, it’s the physical STUFF in their lives. Artifacts that remind them of how they defined happiness in the past…..and therefore…..how they define it now.
Not that they’re materialistic. Not at all. They just....don’t see the need for change. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
The pain of loss
But the ironic thing is….we only ever lose what we cling to.
Mind blowing. Right?
That’s Buddha’s wisdom. Not mine.
But it is SO true. We try SO desperately to make things…people….places…experiences…OURS. And yet, the more we OWN them, the more we are disappointed when they inevitably change, evolve or die.
We actually experience MORE pain when we hold something close (then lose it)….than when we simply allow things to drift in and out of our lives.
And trust me. I don’t think that means we should never experience things deeply. I think it just means….we shouldn’t ATTACH ourselves to the things we feel deeply about.
Easier said than done. I know.
The temptation to turn NOW into FOREVER
Take relationships, for example.
Some of them? Amazing. Others? Become familiar security blankets.
I mean, tell me it isn’t true that A TON of people are staying in their current relationship because, well…..disappointing ice-cream.
They don’t want to get out of their shitty relationship, because their next relationship could be even shittier. And they’d rather bathe in shit, because they know what to expect from it….rather than chance the unknown.
I am convinced it is one of the reasons marriage even exists at all. The very human desire to turn NOW into FOREVER. No questions asked.
Marriage is a declaration. You are mine and I am yours.
And trust me. There is something sooooo romantic about that. I know. It feels so fucking good to be “chosen.”
But when it ends in divorce….like my relationship did….the pain is immeasurable. Because there is a sense of betrayal.
“What do you mean I’m losing you?! You PROMISED I wouldn’t lose you.”
I think good....healthy....relationships are out there. And they are the kind that encourage growth and change....despite the fear of growing apart.....but I don't think saying "I do" (or not) is what makes them great.
The freedom of allowing happiness to change form
To me, the art of living does not consist of clinging to a familiar kind of happiness….just for familiarities sake. The art of living is in allowing happiness to change form, without being disappointed by that change.
Happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up.
This is one of the reasons why I live in an apartment. It is one of the reasons I plan to lease my next vehicle. And it is also one of the reasons why my Tinder profile is set to “casual.”
There is so much pressure in society to OWN. To possess.
But I actually really like the idea of being able to ride the wave. Then to catch the next one.
There is beauty in release. And sometimes we don’t even realize how hard we are gripping onto something. Until we let go, that is. At which point, we notice how weird it is NOT to hold onto that thing anymore.
But truly, it is the moment when we have nothing to lose….that we become the most courageous. We are only timid when there is something we can cling to.
And it is my mission to jump off as many cliffs as I can. Not out of reckless abandon, or a refusal to commit. But rather, to allow my own happiness the opportunity to CONTINUALLY grow.
There are certain foundational elements to my life that will always be there. Love, for instance. Particularly, the love for my kiddos. But I am open to experiencing that love in ever-changing ways. And not just getting into a rut of....this is how I love you.
Cultivate your own happiness
Because I am a happiness junky. And I realize that in order to cultivate that happiness to its truest potential, I’m gonna have to push myself to keep growing.
So here’s my promise to you (and I’d love for you to do the same). The next time I go to DQ? I’m gonna order a flavour I’ve never had before.
And yes. We’ll all be chancing the experience of disappointing ice-cream. BUT! It may just be the best decision of your life.
“It does not serve to dwell on dreams, and forget to live."
I hear the words come out of my own mouth.
My mind is blown.
They’re not my words. They are the words of Albus Dumbledore.
And I am reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my 7-year old son.
“What, mom?” says Liam. “Why’d you stop?”
“It’s just…..he’s very wise,” I say.
All of us are SO used to planning.
We plot. We map. And we control the shit out of everything. Or at least….we think we do.
Which is exactly why this pandemic is taking a HARD toll on so many of us. It’s the level of uncertainty we are all dealing with. The unknown. The unanswered questions.
Nobody has been down this road before.
And it feels a bit like the blind leading the blind. In which case….can we please hire Stevie Wonder to do the job? He’s SO fucking cool.
(Wait a second….is Stevie Wonder still alive? Quick Google check. Yesssss. He is. My man!)
Everyone is anxious, because we don’t exactly know how this is all going to unfold. When it’s going to end. And whether or not we should drill a hole in our ceiling to mount that chin-up bar we ordered from Amazon.
Nobody can prepare for the future. And everyone is being forced to live one day at time.
Just the other day, my mom confessed to me that she likes to read the last page of a book before she gets to the end. She likes to know how it all turns out. And she wants to get a feel for where the whole thing is headed.
It is human nature to want to be able to predict things. We crave certainty.
But to what end? And does it actually serve us?
The dangers of future-tripping
We all do a little future-tripping every now and then. We imagine the future and we anticipate the outcome. And for the most part, we do it in one of two ways:
We worry. And we play out nightmarish scenes of our own lives, imagining the very worst.
Like chocolate, wine, and good porn…..these things are of benefit to us …..in moderation…..under the right circumstances.
Goal setting can be a glorious activity that provides much-needed focus, clarity, and motivation.
However, it also has the awful ability to distract us from enjoyment of the present moment. It spurs on the “I’ll be happy when” curse. And it can prevent us from experiencing and appreciating true joy, right here, right now.
Fear, too, has it’s plus side. Just a few weeks ago, I was leaving the club by myself at 1 am in downtown Winnipeg. I could literally SEE the headlines in the newspaper:
“WINNIPEG TREASURE” GONE TOO SOON, MURDERED IN DOWNTOWN WINNIPEG
Better idea? Pop into the Radisson and get the hotel security guard to walk me to my car.
The down side of fear? Well….THIS one is the kicker. Sleepless nights, shoulder knots, and a host of stress-related illnesses. Anxiety. Depression. And entire lifetimes devoid of joy, happiness and fulfillment. THIS, my friends, is where 90% of us reside on the regular.
Fear is a pandemic, in and of itself. And it is ruining lives.
And so, if we are to trust the guy with a beard that goes all the way to his belly-button (and let’s be honest….you’d be stupid not to), it’s proooooobably a good thing to start practicing “presence”…..rather than constantly distracting ourselves with “what if.” Especially when it comes to fear.
But how do you do that? How do we override fear?
It’s time to start taking risks
When learning a new skill, practice is key. And this, my friends, is no different.
It’s about unlearning our engrained mindset…..and filling that void with a fresh new way of thinking.
Instead of practicing fear, we practice it’s counter-part. It’s opposite.
I mean, think about it. What better way to stop fear from ruling our lives….than to deliberately invite it in, and show it who’s boss?
It’s like those crazy people who take cold showers every morning, just to practice “getting uncomfortable.” On purpose.
And for me? I like to practice taking risks in small ways…..playing Monopoly, and going hell-bent on scooping up aallllll the properties. Trying a new shade of lipstick. Taking a gamble on a new flavour of ice-cream.
But I also do it in big ways. Starting my own business. Ending my marriage.
I will never forget the experience of telling my parents I was getting a divorce. My dad, hearing me out, acknowledging my desire for freedom…..but at the same time, asking the question….. “but what if you leave, only to discover that it’s incredibly lonely?”
It was a valid question. And a fear that was definitely in the back of my mind.
But what was I to do? Listen to fear, for the rest of my life, while ignoring the deepest desires of my soul?
Think about the experience of riding a roller-coaster. The thrill of climbing that first hill. It’s a risk. But one that pays off in shrieks of happiness.
The more we practice risky business, the more we realize.....it's not so bad to "not know" what's gonna happen next.
It’s about embracing uncertainty.
And taking the wheel, when it comes to the “unknown.”
Don’t forget to live
OK. So practice taking risks.
Really? Is it that important?
Yes. It is.
And not to sound overly dramatic.....but.....our lives depend on it. Literally.
We are forgetting to live. Because we are afraid of what is around the corner.
And so, during these crazy, unpredictable times, I invite you to let go of your grip on "needing to know what's coming next." Needing to know the end of the story.
The quality of your life depends on your ability to get comfortable with uncertainty.
And what better way to challenge your fear of the unknown, than to bathe in it.
Now, who's got Stevie's number. I want to call him. And not just to say "I love you."
Justin Timberlake should not be as successful as he is. The world tells us that we need years of deliberate practice to get good at one thing. And yet JT went from child actor to boyband singer......solo artist to actor.....show host to comedian.....R&B singer to Soul artist.
So how did he do it?
I would argue that this chameleon has one key trait that we can all learn from: he isn't afraid to get it wrong.
Because let's face it. He isn't always right.
The movie, Friends with Benefits.
His 2018 album, Man of the Woods.
The $16 million-dollar golf course he bought, and allegedly sold seven years later for $500 000.
Dude does not stay in his lane. And yet he is one of the most successful entertainers on the planet.
I see the same fearlessness in my kiddos, who try on different hats, all the time.
One day, Clara will be obsessed with yoga.....tree posing at the grocery store, in the bathtub, under a blanket ......and the next day, she'll be a make-up artist who spends hours in front of the mirror, playing around with lipstick shades and the perfect smoky eye (which....in all honesty ends up looking more like Chucky than Cover Girl).
Children aren't burdened with the fear of getting it wrong, because they aren't familiar the idea of "this is how we do things around here."
As adults, we see a "right way" and a "wrong way," and our ego is simply begging us to avoid situations that put us in danger of doing it wrong.
But if we ever want to achieve more, level up, and reach our greatest potential, we need to be willing to feel the discomfort of failure.
How tall will a tree grow? As tall is it possibly can.
Humans, on the other hand? We have a choice. We can stretch up to the full measure of our potential. Or we can hold back and choose to stay in the underbrush.
We have to be willing to reach for more.
And that's the hard part.
I think sometimes we are told to "love ourselves just the way we are." And although there is merit in feeling gratitude for where we're at right this moment, there is a difference between gratitude and contentment.
Gratitude is being thankful for what you have.
Whereas contentment is being satisfied with what you have.
And it is those who continually challenge their satisfaction, abandon the comfort of a "sure win," and put themselves out there, that reach the greatest heights.
Go ahead, girl. Rock your body. Bring sexy back. And get it wrong....over and over again....with the off-chance that you get it so so right, every now and then.
Jiro Ono is one of THE best sushi masters of all time.
He owns a Michelin three-starred restaurant in Japan called Sukiyabashi Jiro, and he has dedicated his entire life to the art of making sushi. Think you want to learn from the master? Have patience, my friend! Jiro's apprentices dedicate months at a time to learning each teeny tiny part of the sushi-making process -- how to wring a towel, how to wield a knife, how to scale a fish.....one apprentice took ten years to learn how to cook an egg!
Getting good at something takes practice. But not just repitition. Deliberate practice. And there's a difference.
Deliberate practice is purposeful and systematic with the goal of getting better. Repitition can be mindless and automatic.....unfocused.
Coasting on auto-pilot is the enemy of deliberate practice. And all too often, we assume that because we doing something over and over and over again, we're getting better at it. In reality? We are simply reinforcing a habit....rather than improving it.
I'm a shitty driver. I know this about myself. In fact, just the other day, I was called a "fucking moron!" by a passing driver as I was trying to parallel park downtown. I reverse down busy streets if I've missed my turn. I totally dismiss the four-way stop sign rules (your turn, your turn, your turn......oh fuck it, I want to go). And I once totalled my mom's car. In a parking lot.
I drive every single day. Excellent practice, right? Not a chance. I'm just as shitty a driver today, as I was 10 years ago. Because I don't deliberately practice, with the intention of getting better.
Same thing goes for sex. You could have sex three times a week for a year, and still only be "ok" at it by Christmas, if you're doing the same one-two punch routine every time you hit the sheets.
Practice does not necessarily mean progress.
And guys, people are having' a heyday with their fitness, practicing their hearts out, without any real progress.
Want to level up? Here's the secret:
If we are ever going to improve upon ourselves, we need to be open and willing to take note of our shortcomings. We need proof of where we stand (I could do 10 push-ups yesterday. Today I did 11!).
And ideally, we need someone else to give us the skinny on where we're at.....because let's be honest, when no one's watching, we tend to bend the truth in our own favour.
Having a coach in your life (whether it be your boyfriend, your best friend, your personal trainer, or your 4-year old daughter), is essential to making progress....not only because a coach will help you find ways to improve, but because they will hold you accountable to delivering your A-game every day. There's no cheating when someone is looking over your shoulder.
What I love about my job is pushing people to new levels. It's witnessing 5 more lbs on the bar, 5 seconds longer in that squat hold, and a comment like, "thanks for the workout today....if it were up to me, I wouldn't have been here."
And I witnessed it over and over again at Fit Fest yesterday....an incredibly inspiring group of people who were willing to try something new, rather than just "same-old same-old" it all the way home.
What does your fitness game look like? Is it time to shake things up? Is it time to bring some intentionality to your routine? Is it time to take an honest look at where you're at, and level up?
If the answer is yes, I offer my humble opinion.
Seek feedback. And look for someone to be your personal Jiro Ono.
"Never mistake activity for achievement." — John Wooden
The year is 2001. Carrie Bradshaw is my idol. "Drops of Jupiter" is my favourite song. And I'm gearing up to spend $27 000 on an English degree.
I loved University. I read Shakespeare. Virginia Woolf. And Jack Kerouac. I wrote a thousand essays at 2 in the morning.
Did I learn how to function on 12 cups of coffee and 3 hours of sleep? Sure did.
Did it prepare me for my chosen career path? Hell no.
And therein lies the rub, my friends (ok, so the Shakespare comes in handy every now and then). So often, we spend a shit-load of time preparing for life to happen. But very little time actually living it.
I've always admired people who live life by the seat of their pants. People who say "Screw it! I'm just gonna do it." People who kick procrastination to the curb, and take the first step -- even if it seems outlandish.
Because if there's one thing successful people all have in common, it's that they all started before they felt ready.
Exactly one year ago, I quit my job as a Librarian to become a Personal Trainer. And let me tell you, the best advice I ever got, was to get certified as fast as possible, and just get coaching. I wasn't used to operating under the dive-in-head-first mentality....but I embraced it with everything I had. And it worked! Way better than I could have ever imagined.
And so I think about how much time we all spend over-preparing vs. producing. I think about how much time we all spend getting ready vs. actually achieving.
And guys? Let's be honest. Fitness is one of biggest ways we delay action. How often do we allow preparation to become procrastination when it comes to working out?!
I'll go tomorrow when: I'm more well rested. I've eaten breakfast. I've had a chance to wash my favourite gym shorts. I've convinced my buddy Geoff to come with me. I've done my physio. I've nailed a few laps around the block.
We convince ourselves that we need to get it all "just so" before we do the thing.
And why do we do that? If I had to wager a guess, I'd say it's because we are trying to delay failure. We can't fail if we don't try. But if we don't try, we also can't succeed.
Having the balls to take action, will get you a long way. As naive and nerve-wracking as it is. Because whether you're trying to start a business, write a book, or lose weight.....who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.