Until two years ago, I spent much time and energy focused on setting and attaining goals. As the result of a pivotal event, my energy is now better directed towards encouraging awareness and facilitating learning.
Last week I told you about being “goaded” into triathlons by my nemesis. After completing my first one, as is my wont, I immediately set higher goals and started training for future events. It didn’t take long for those goals to defeat the purpose of participating in the first place – my health.
One Monday morning, two years ago, after returning from a trip to Europe, I struck out on a five-mile run when my back gave out exactly in the middle of the run. I’ll spare you the details of the epically painful crawl home and instead simply note that I have not been able to run since.
As you can imagine, it was a difficult time because I had grown to depend on running to control not only my weight but also my overall mental well-being. As such, it didn’t take long before I started putting on pounds again and descended into a funk.
By nature/habit I’m an early morning riser. Prior to my injury, my morning routine involved getting up by 5 AM, having some coffee while lining out my day, and then getting in a morning workout before readying myself for work. With my back putting me out of commission, I suddenly had a chunk of free time in which to think, and thereby discover that something was missing.
I am horribly ashamed to say that, because of that aggressive morning routine, I usually missed seeing my son get up in the morning. Today, hearing my son’s door open and watching him emerge from his room filled with wonder and excitement has had a profound impact on my own state of mind. In addition to topping me off with joy it serves as a daily reminder that I get to choose how I am going to face my day: With joy and wonder, or as a jilted grump? I’ve worked with plenty of grumps and I’m telling you, brother…life’s too short to walk around with a cloud over your head. The benefits you get by having your eyes open are, well, eye-opening, to say the least. Today, unless I’m on travel, I won’t miss my son’s morning greeting.
When asked how to get smarter, Warren Buffett once said (hat tip Shane Parish):
Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.
If you have a family and a full-time job, finding time you can reserve for learning is a real challenge. It turns out the only truly quiet time I get is before 7 AM and, since my injury, I now use this time to read, write, or learn something new. Being careful not to assign a specific endpoint to any of these morning activities I feel enriched in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. Although time will tell if and how this will benefit Evaero, I’m happier and healthier because I’m investing in myself. Furthermore, I’m processing information and making decisions very differently than I would have two years ago.
Don’t want to trade in the endorphin rush of a morning run for reading or learning? How about giving up some of the dopamine rush that comes from emailing, texting, or twitter instead? While the three hours per day (!) we Americans spend on our mobile devices may benefit us in the short term, I’m convinced taking one of those hours each day for exploring curiosity will yield greater benefit in the long term.
Mentioning my nemesis above reminded me of a new piece by Benjamin Clementine. According to First Watch:
After surviving homelessness, poverty, and years of busking to get noticed, Paris-based singer Benjamin Clementine has come to appreciate life’s golden rule. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” he sings on his stirring piano ballad “Nemesis.” “Remember your days are full in number.”
Hope you enjoy it.
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Having said that, I am interested to hear from you. Good, bad, or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m the only person who will read your email and, as time allows, I’ll do my best, at a minimum, to personally acknowledge receipt.