Tag Archives: Friendship

Why Nonsense and Choosing the Wrong Thing Can’t be Ignored

The-Kummakivi-Balancing-Rock

Not everything can be explained easily. Some things just are. (Image/Ancient-origins.net)

“Feelings don’t matter.

I don’t think anyone currently or formerly close to me would accuse me of heartlessness, but I’ve also been known—especially when it was convenient for my argument—to reduce human emotion to some bullshit little thing that weak people allow to control them.

Maybe all but the most empathetic members of humanity think and do this too.

Feelings Don’t Matter isn’t such a bad life mantra.

I’m strongly anti-divorce, and I consider it tragic that millions of people think and feel Love for one another and publicly promise to do so forever, only to take it all back and break their relationships, homes and families a few years later because they don’t “feel” it anymore.

I’ve written about hedonic adaptation a bunch of times because I believe it’s such a strong contributor to the world’s divorce and crappy-relationship problem, and I don’t think very many people are aware of it or talk enough about it.

Because you’re a human being, you very naturally (not because something is wrong with you) become less emotionally responsive to good things in your life as your brain adjusts to them.

New songs. New houses. New cars. New pay raises. New clothes. New jobs. New dating relationships.

These things make us FEEL good. Very good. They make us feel excited. A tidal wave of emotional motivation to invest your time, your money, and your mental and emotional energy into this awesome new positive thing in your life.

But you get used to them. They become routine. Ordinary. And all the sudden they don’t trigger those same feelings of excitement in you.

Call it the Universe’s way of keeping us motivated. The cave-people had everything they needed once they discovered fire. Between that and their stone tools, life improved about a gazillion percent.

Instead of calling it a day and spending the rest of human history spearing fish and roasting woodland creatures over an open fire, people kept pursuing more.

I like movies, football, video games, vacations, automobiles, typing keyboards, the internet and life expectancies beyond our twenties. So I’m glad we didn’t stop at fire.

Of course, the downside is that awesome things seem less awesome once I get used to them.

I don’t wake up every day with the intention of being an ungrateful douchebag, but inevitably, I say or think things that only ungrateful douchebags say and think. I forget that I have electricity, modern health care, sanitary water, the use of my arms and legs, massive HD televisions, etc. I forget that other people watch their children die because of mosquito bites and literally don’t know where their next meal will come from.

I forget that every day.

Hedonic adaptation is why. I’m used to houses, cars, modern conveniences, and even a few luxuries. My Wi-Fi was out a few weekends ago.

I couldn’t play PUBG on Xbox for like, a day, and you would have thought the world had ended.

Asshole.

I even called AT&T’s internet people twice, and I hate being on the phone with customer service people.

It occurs to me that—in that moment—my feelings mattered.

Whether I’m evaluating my old sins or new ones, I think I’m the dumbest smart person I know.

Dismissing Emotion is Stupid, Hypocritical and Will Probably Ruin Your Relationships

I thought I was so fucking smart back when I was telling my wife how silly she was to let her emotions control her like that.

I think through things. Some would say I overthink. And after dissecting and closely inspecting the idea of letting emotions drive human behavior, I concluded how foolish it was.

Because how I feel can change in an instant.

Good news makes me happy.

Bad news makes me mad or sad.

Sometimes my fourth-grader acts like a little penis-face and I get angry with him, but then I’ll drop him off at school knowing I won’t see him for a couple of days and totally melt—all traces of anger and frustration gone.

I concluded MANY years ago that if I simply did what I “felt” like all the time, I would:

  • Lack money because I probably wouldn’t show up regularly for work.
  • Have a morally questionable and unhealthy sex life.
  • Be a shitty father.
  • Likely be in prison for vehicular homicide because other drivers are assholes and deserved it.

You get it.

We shouldn’t let such fickle and constantly changing things drive our decisions, should we?

LeBron James (local hero here in Ohio) at age 33, and Tom Brady (non-local hero playing professional football in Massachusetts) at age 40, spend ungodly amounts of money on their bodies in the form of personal chefs, expensive disciplined diets, and expensive disciplined workout regimens which have both of them setting new standards for player performance in their respective sports after playing as many games as each of them have.

Their longevity—true or not—is largely linked to their disciplined lifestyle choices.

They make good choices, then good things happen.

I think most of us fundamentally understand that when we make “good,” disciplined, responsible choices, the results are positive.

When you sacrifice financially in the present to save money, you can often retire comfortably.

When you sacrifice nightlife to get plenty of sleep, you often go through the day feeling better than when sleep-deprived.

When you sacrifice physical excursion in order to be physically fit, you tend to look better, feel better, and improve your overall quality of life.

Basically, all of life is this way. Good choices = good results. Bad choices = bad results.

Some people make bad choices because they don’t know any better.

But most of us? Most of us who make bad choices do so despite knowing better.

We choose the cheeseburger over the salad. The milkshake over the tea. The snooze button over the work. The alcohol over harsh reality. The orgasm over all kinds of different life-enhancing alternatives depending on your relationship status and/or the methods for doing so.

Conclusion: No matter how much the calculated analysis, thoughtful logic, or macho tough-guy “wisdom” might dissuade us from making—or even respecting—emotion-driven decisions, the TRUTH of life is that shit’s going to go down in the hearts and minds of pretty much everyone we know, and they’re going to want and need certain things for reasons we may or may not understand.

And if those people going through these things happen to be people who agreed years ago to be our adult partners and are now feeling constantly disrespected and fucked with by our apparent lack of concern for the things they care about, they’re highly likely to make choices one way or another that end with them not being our adult partners anymore.

Maybe they’ll even go poach an egg.

Sure, feelings are bullshit.

Sure, feelings are fleeting. Neither we nor they will feel like this next week or next month. Maybe neither of us will even remember this five years from now.

Sure, we shouldn’t let something fickle and fleeting guide our decisions. But since when did people do what they are SUPPOSED to?!

Life isn’t a predictable math equation like some of us might like it to be.

Life is not If This, Then That, with any of us having a clue what “That” may turn out to be.

Today—right now—some shit that won’t matter to anyone in five years is the most important thing imaginable to someone you care about.

And just maybe if you treat that thing as important BECAUSE you care about the person, something magical will happen.

Or, perhaps at minimum, something horrible won’t.

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“Be Yourself” is Great Advice We’re Often Too Scared to Follow

odd-creativity-be-yourself

Sometimes people tell you to “just be yourself” because they like you and assume other people will, too. They say that to you before you go on a date. Before a job interview. Before a public speaking event. Before going somewhere where you’ll meet a bunch of strangers.

We have heard it so many times that most of us don’t even know what it means. Many of us spend a ton of energy trying to be the person we think others want us to be because we’re ashamed of ourselves or because we’re afraid no one will like the real us.

Many of us seem incapable of forming our own opinion of ourselves. We pretend to know what other people think about us, guess wrong some of the time, and then we use that as our identity.

Not only do we let other people dictate our self-worth, but we actually let incorrect assumptions about what other people think about us dictate it.

It’s the reason so many people are sad and angry. It’s the reason we have dysfunctional family relationships, and drama-filled friendships, and totally broken and unhealthy marriages and romantic relationships.

I think maybe sometimes people don’t really grow apart.

I think sometimes they just never really knew each other in the first place.

It was about 4 p.m. Friday when I pulled into my hometown. A little Ohio town of about 20,000 people a few hours from where I live.

My friend and I get together every year to nerd out over the NFL Draft. He’s an attorney and needed to get some work done before meeting me so I slipped into a new bar and restaurant next door to his law offices to wait for him. I sat at the bar and had a few drinks. A little more than an hour later, he showed up.

By then, I’d met the owner and learned a lot about him and his business endeavors, discovered one of the girls working there is related to some old high school friends, and was drinking mystery shots with the pretty bar manager. We had one more drink and got out of there.

Before leaving, I went over to shake hands and say bye to the people I’d met. A good time was had.

As we were walking out the door, my friend who has known me since we were six—a guy who charms juries for a living—looked at me and said: “You’re better with people than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about that since.

Many people misrepresent themselves while dating or during job interviews. Basically, they’re frauds. A lot of us do this in really small matters. It gets scarier and more painful over really big things. And when you’re a fraud, it’s only a matter of time before you’re exposed.

It’s why sometimes two people meet and pretend to be different than they actually are, and both people like the fake versions of one another, but then after getting to know each other, there’s no compatibility or chemistry and the relationship crashes and burns. I’m pretty sure that happens 147 million times every day.

I think it’s important to be yourself, and I’m really trying hard to stop pretending to be something I’m not, even over little things designed to get someone to like me more.

It’s about identifying your values.

It’s about establishing your boundaries.

It’s about being authentic.

Over time, the number of people who share your values, respect your boundaries, and are attracted to your authentic self romantically, spiritually, physically, and professionally, will grow.

I’m pretty sure for every person that likes the fake me, there are just as many people who like the real me.

I’m pretty sure for every girl who likes tattooed felons, there are just as many who prefer me or someone like me. People who read and think and talk and can spell and speak coherent sentences.

People are afraid of rejection so they go into self-preservation mode rather than put themselves out there. But the truth is rejection from a stranger isn’t a 100th as bad as rejection from someone you love.

I think maybe sometimes people don’t really grow apart.

I think sometimes they just never really knew each other in the first place.

I bet 100-percent of people who worry about what other people think of them spend a lot of time pretending to be someone they are not on matters big and small.

It’s dishonest. Lying, essentially. All the pretending drains you and makes you a suckier version of yourself.

From James Altucher:

“This is not religious but math. The brain takes up 2% of the body’s mass and burns up 25% of the body’s calories each day. One in four calories you eat goes to fuel your brain.

When you lie, one side of your brain has to deal with one set of lies. And the other side of the brain has to deal with the other set of lies.

So to be at optimal mental strength you now need twice as many calories. This is impossible.

So the best way to be mentally strong is to be honest so all of the fuel in your body can be used efficiently at propelling your brain from strength to strength instead of fighting off the attacks on your weaknesses.”

People are attracted to people who know themselves and are confident being whatever that is. A confident person understands that they are who they are and that the only people worth spending time with are the people who like and accept that authentic person.

People choose who they’re going to spend time with based on how they feel around that person.

Two authentic people being emotionally vulnerable can form virtually unbreakable lifetime bonds. And those are the best kind.

I wish people knew it was okay to be themselves. Our need for acceptance and fear of rejection makes us pretend sometimes.

We just want to be liked.

But when we’re really honest about who we are and what we want… when we are actively passionate about things we care about… we won’t just be liked.

We’ll be admired.

We’ll be respected.

We’ll be wanted.

We’ll be loved.

And all this time. Who knew? All you had to be was you.

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A Time for Fighting

(Image courtesy of HuffPo.)

(Image courtesy of Huffington Post.)

If I kill a pedestrian with my car while obeying all laws and cooperating with law enforcement, I am unlikely to be charged with a crime.

If I kill a pedestrian with my car while texting and drunk driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, I will almost certainly be charged both criminally and civilly with wrongful death and/or vehicular homicide. Even though it was an accident, a life might have been saved had I been more responsible.

If I kill a pedestrian with my car intentionally because I’m acting like a homicidal maniac, I would be a murderer and could easily spend the rest of my life in prison.

In all three scenarios, a person is dead because I hit them with my car.

But the consequences and whatever happens next all vary dramatically depending on the details.

If you’re my ex-wife and reading this, you’re probably annoyed because you’ve heard this one before and think I’m full of shit. And you wouldn’t be wrong to think so because I used this example in arguments with you when you were right and I was wrong.

The idea wasn’t wrong. I was just wrong to use it.

It’s a fact that I never intentionally—not even one time—set out to hurt my wife’s feelings. But, sometimes I hurt her feelings anyway. “It was an accident!” I’d protest. She’s overreacting AGAIN, I’d think. I didn’t MEAN to hurt her feelings, so she shouldn’t be so mad at me!!!

But I didn’t know then something I know now, and I wrote about it in An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10.

The “intent” argument only works the first time.

If you’re out hunting and you fire a shot that accidentally kills someone in a nearby home you didn’t realize was there, you are unlikely to be charged with murder or homicide. Because it was an accident.

But if you go out hunting again to that same spot and accidentally kill a second person due to negligence? Have fun in prison.

My crime wasn’t hurting my wife’s feelings the first time. An accidental one-time offense is almost always forgivable. My crime was hurting my wife’s feelings repeatedly, even after she explained why it was happening.

Because I don’t respond to things the same way she does, I never really changed, and expected her to adjust to my “correct” way of thinking and feeling and behaving.

In other words, if you’re not willing to set aside stubbornness and defensiveness and pride in order to not inflict emotional pain on your spouse, you’re being an asshole. You get a pass the first time. Apologize and try again. But if you keep doing it and she keeps getting upset and you keep trying to convince her YOU’RE right, and SHE’S wrong?

You’ll be the captain of the masturbation squad in no time. (The implication being that she or he will stop having sex with you because you’re doing a bad job.)

There are two points I want to make and they somewhat contradict each other which is always a problem.

1. INTENT MATTERS

Accidents and malicious intent are not the same thing, and if you treat both the same (with me), we’re going to go rounds.

And I think people need to establish strong personal boundaries and draw the line where they’re not going to let other people mess with, or manipulate them, emotionally.

The best thing I have ever read on personal boundaries was written by Mark Manson. It’s titled The Guide to Strong Boundaries, and will take you about 15 minutes to read. Even if you don’t have time, you should make time if you feel like you’re the kind of person always getting the short end of the stick or always in dysfunctional, dramatic relationships.

Manson says it’s a sure sign of boundary issues, and I think being conscious of these things and changing your normal operating procedure is an excellent way to make yourself a higher-functioning, happier, more-confident, more-capable, more-attractive person.

In conclusion? Don’t let someone charge you with murder when you’ve made an honest effort to do the right thing.

However, it’s easy to be dishonest with yourself about this one, and I used to be, so it’s critical to know the difference.

Here’s what I mean.

2. YOU MUST SACRIFICE AND COMPROMISE FOR PEOPLE YOU LOVE

You must.

I used to tease my wife for watching shows I thought were beneath her. Stuff on MTV, or Real Housewives of Bitchville, or whatever.

Anyone who knows me in real life (and I always assumed—incorrectly!—my actual wife) should know that I respect her intellectually. I don’t like talking to people I think are dumb, let alone, living in the same house with them.

My teasing would offend her. Sometimes, it would erupt into a real-life argument. She was upset because I wasn’t respecting her. I was upset because of all the people in the world, you’re not going to give ME the benefit of the doubt!?!?

I bet this exact same fight happens in virtually every marriage.

This is another classic guy-being-dumb scenario in which I became an expert. (Because I was being dumb.)

Because her teasing me about some show doesn’t bother me, I would get offended by it bothering her. I literally thought I should get special treatment since we were married.

I did something that upset her, but I didn’t think it SHOULD bother her, so instead of working really hard to stop the behavior, I just kept doing whatever I wanted without apology because she shouldn’t have been upset in the first place!

The time for strict boundary enforcement is in your professional relationships. With family and friends in adulthood when you are mature and wise enough to sniff out emotionally manipulative bullshit. And in your romantic pursuits—at the very beginning when you’re first meeting people and deciding how much you’re going to let them in.

Partners change the game.

It’s not just about you anymore. It’s about we. It’s about us.

Strong personal boundaries are critical to healthy living.

But those walls have to come down when choosing another. Vulnerabilities and scars exposed.

And you build new boundaries and walls around both of you. Together.

Because you are them.

And they are you.

Two tangled souls.

A beginning.

But no end.

There’s a time for fighting.

And a time for not.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

I think I know where happiness lies. I just don't think it's easy to get there. But isn't the climb worth it?

I think I know where happiness lies. I just don’t think it’s easy to get there. But isn’t the climb worth it?

People chase money.

They chase sex. Fame. Status.

They chase adventure. Education. Fitness.

People chase fun. Friendship. Spiritual peace.

In the end, people are chasing these things day in and day out because they believe achieving them will make them feel good.

We don’t really want millions of dollars. We just want to not be enslaved to debt. To never be stressed about unexpected bills. To never worry about how we’re going to pay for something. To have the means to acquire things or participate in various activities.

We want to do all those things because we believe doing so will enrich our lives.

It’s the pursuit of happiness.

Misery Loves Company

I was several hundred words into another post when a friend texted. Her marriage is on the rocks. Has been for a long time.

She had a rough weekend with her husband.

Then something happened, triggering some atypical emotional responses in her.

“It sent me into a tailspin,” she said. “I’m questioning EVERYTHING.”

I know how you feel.

It doesn’t take much, sometimes.

I told her we both suffer from the same problem.

That we’re both in phases in our lives where we’re simply waking up every day, doing what’s required of us, and trying to not die.

It’s a wholly dissatisfying way to live.

There’s little fun. There’s no peace. And happiness is a long-forgotten stranger.

A figment of my imagination, it seems. Something I remember feeling, but not what the actual experience is like.

Like a decadent dessert you tried long ago.

You don’t remember the flavor. Only that it was beautiful and that you want to taste it again.

What I Want

I texted my friend: “What do you want? Be specific.

“To me, the only thing that makes sense is to write down specifically what you want. Really specific.

“Then, only do things that get you closer to those things.

“Everything else is a colossal waste of time and energy.

“We don’t have a lot of time.”

Well, alright then, Matt. Try not to be a hypocritical douchebag for once in your life.

What do you really want?

  1. I want a partner who I love and trust. I want to share the same life philosophies. I want to share meals and laughs and drinks and friends with her. I want to have ridiculously adventurous and spirited sex that would make all of my friends jealous if they only knew. And I want to always be giving more to the relationship than I’m taking.
  2. I want to be a good father to my son. I want to set a good example for him spiritually, intellectually, financially and socially.
  3. I want to spend more time surrounded by friends and family.
  4. I want to wake up every day, write whatever I want, and make enough money to maintain whatever lifestyle I choose.
  5. I want to be at my physical peak. Because I like how I feel when I am. I like feeling wanted. I like having mountains of energy. I like being strong.
  6. I want to live a life where I help other people acquire all of the things on their What I Want lists.
  7. I want to achieve spiritual peace.

So, what do I need to be doing right now, and tomorrow morning, and the next day, and the next to achieve those things?

  1. I can’t do anything about #1. But it will come. I can concentrate on the rest.
  2. I can be a better man, I can read more, I can be more financially disciplined, and I can be a better friend.
  3. I need only reach out and make the effort to be with those I love.
  4. I don’t know that I can do much more than I’m doing. I need to read more. Get smarter. Get wiser. Practice the craft. And maybe, if the stars align, someone will decide to trade money for words. Goonies never say die.
  5. Work out. Stop being a chump. Make the effort. Every day. First a little, then a lot. I need it. Excuses are bullshit.
  6. I do try to help people. Perhaps I can do a much better job. Ask more questions. Listen thoughtfully. Then, when possible, take meaningful action to help others achieve their dreams.
  7. All I need to do is say “Thank you” every single chance I get and be good even when no one’s watching. That will be an excellent step toward being the man I want to be.

I don’t want to be rich.

I don’t want to be famous.

I don’t want to be popular.

I just want to feel, deep within me, the peace and happiness that has eluded me in adulthood.

And I believe so strongly that it can only be achieved through great effort.

That this world gives you what you put into it.

That you must ALWAYS give more than you take.

In your human relationships.

In your professional relationships.

In your spiritual relationship.

You can sit around like me. Play the victim card. Why me, God? Why?

Or you can actually do something.

Happiness isn’t hiding behind that bush over there.

It’s big and shiny and on display for the world to see.

Only it sits atop a mountain. A big one.

And the weak can’t get there. The lazy can’t capture it.

Without strength, without discipline, without resolve, without faith, without perseverance, without courage, the climb will break your spirit.

Better to just sit staring longingly at the summit?

Or to prepare for the difficult climb?

I’m tired of this shit.

The climb must begin.

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How to Live a Regret-Free Life

Choose happiness. Choose love. Choose yourself.

Choose happiness. Choose love. Choose yourself.

You’re going to die.

Just like me.

It might be in 80 years.

It might be in 10.

It might be today.

Is there anything troubling you today that would matter on the last day of your life?

One of my Facebook friends posted this article yesterday. It was the first I’d seen it. It was written by a nurse who cares for dying patients. She takes those final days to talk with them about their lives. To ask them probing questions about what it all means. About their hopes and dreams and regrets. Then she took the five most common regrets mentioned by her dying patients and wrote them down.

I intend to spend a lot of time thinking about these.

I hope you will, too.

Live Like You’re Dying

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’” – Kurt Vonnegut 

Life’s biggest regrets? According to one lady who knew more dead people than most of us, these are the highlights:

1. Live a life true to yourself; not the life others expect of you. 

This was the big one, the nurse wrote. We make choices every day. How many do we make because other people want us to? How many do we make for ourselves?

How many of you chose a particular area of study because you were trying to please one of your parents? How many of you choose your job or where you live or your hobbies because of other people?

This is a big one. This idea. Being true to yourself. What if you have three children who depend on you? A spouse who loves you? Can you pack up and travel the world because that’s your dream? To go cave diving? Or minister to the poor? Or work on a fishing vessel? Or study at Oxford? Or work part time at a beachfront surf shop? Or own a boutique bakery?

It seems almost selfish. This message is best served on the young. And I hope any teenagers or young adults reading will really think about what it means to pursue your passions and dreams and not what you think other people expect you to be.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us “tied down” to families or children or mortgages or other dependents?

These are tough choices. Tough conversations to have. Especially if the people we surround ourselves with are unsupportive.

My favorite writer James Altucher doesn’t mess around. You’re either with him or against him. And if you’re against him, he cuts you out of his life. Life’s too short to surround yourself with energy takers, he said. He only spends time with people who lift him up. Who make him happy. And as a result, he’s happy.

Ruthless? Maybe. Impractical? I can see how you might think that. That was my initial reaction too. But then I just kept thinking about it.

What if I spend the rest of my life NEVER doing things I don’t want to do? And ALWAYS doing things I want to do with people I want to do them with?

What’s stopping me from making that choice?

I’m not sure there is anything. But do we have the courage to choose happiness? To choose ourselves?

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” – Henry David Thoreau

2. Don’t work so hard. 

This is one of my biggest crimes. Which will make some of you who know me, laugh. Matt? Work hard?!?! Hahahahaha! But I don’t really mean it in the context of how industrious or productive I am. I mean it more in terms of my mindset.

This was a common regret of husbands and fathers who toiled in careers their entire adult lives, missing their children’s entire upbringing, and often leaving their wives to fend for themselves.

It doesn’t mean don’t work hard. We absolutely should work hard in whatever it is we’re involved with. What it means, is maybe we don’t have our priorities straight. Maybe making thousands of extra dollars so your child can join ski club or wear LeBron’s newest shoes or live in the nicest neighborhood isn’t as valuable as simplifying your lives and “needs” so that you can give them more individual attention. So, instead of one weeklong vacation each year in some wonderful place, the family is together all the time. Growing together. Communicating. Feeling loved. Appreciated. Connected.

Maybe waking up EVERY SINGLE DAY and going to work just so we can have houses to sleep in and cars to drive to our jobs doesn’t make as much sense as so many of us have been programmed to think it does.

I’m not advocating being a bum. I’m not sure I’m prepared to start slashing luxuries in my life. I’ve always been more of a fan of acquiring more money.

However, does any of this shit matter if we’re going to die today? Does it?

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself that. Maybe it’s time to start ridding yourself of burdens you carry that won’t matter when you’re gone.

Or better yet. Maybe it’s time to start ridding yourself of burdens. Period.

Because 99 percent of the stuff that ails you will hardly be an afterthought in five years.

Stop wasting time.

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. Express your feelings courageously. 

This is the thing I’m learning how to do best in this new world I’m living in. I’m still MUCH more shy in person expressing feelings and showing courage, but I must say: Being as open and honest with you guys here as I try to be has really helped me show more courage when I’m looking someone in the eye. I’m not all the way there yet. But, give me time.

The truth is liberating.

And I don’t mean, spilling your secrets.

I just mean, being courageous.

You like that girl? Well, dammit, stop being a pansy. Go tell her.

Maybe you’ll get her. Maybe you won’t. I’m learning each day to give less of a shit about the bad things that might happen to me when I’m brave. And the good feelings I feel for being brave tend to offset any disappointment I might feel from an undesirable outcome.

The new me isn’t awesome. Not yet.

But as they say in the scouting athletes business, I have a lot of upside.

You do, too.

Say what you feel. Be as honest as you possibly can without hurting people.

That’s where peace lives.

That’s where happiness lives.

That’s where a regret-free life lives.

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” – Lucille Ball

4. Stay connected to friends.

I’m horrible at this sometimes. HORRIBLE. I wrote yesterday about being reclusive. And I have been lately as I try to reassemble all the scattered pieces of my life.

I love my friends. I love my friends more than they can or will ever understand because I can’t put them all in the same room and hug their faces in a world-record-breaking sweaty and really uncomfortable group hug.

But if you know me in real life, I love you. I do. And I appreciate you so much. And I’ll never be able to thank you properly for all the memories you’ve given me and all of the memories we’ll eventually get to make.

I might die before I see you again.

If that happens, I pray you’ll remember our friendship with fondness. And I pray you understand that my most precious memories unrelated to my closest family members revolve around you.

Yes, you.

Whether our interactions were few. Or whether you’re a fundamental part of my life.

Aaron. My best man. All those years. You’re family. Forever.

Z. You’re the best. Give me more time to figure this life out. I’ll be back.

SP. I’m probably not me without you. I’m probably an even bigger asshole. Thank you.

Ben and Andy. You anchor my other world. Love you guys.

Dani. I knew you for five minutes. But you were the pretty girl who let the new guy take you out once or twice. You don’t know how big of a deal that was to me.

SK. You’re my all-time favorite grumpy person.

O. My first friend in my hometown. Solid gold family. Solid gold man.

ATH2O. The next time I have a bad time with you will be the first. Same for you, RR.

Work people. You’re my now. You represent adult me. You keep me steady. Anchored. Balanced. Focused. All those hours we share together when we wish we were elsewhere. You make it more than tolerable. You make it pleasant. Appreciate you so much.

Florida people. You were the first life savers I ever met.

SC. I seriously had one of the best weeks of my life with you. Thank you.

CD. Remember when you got upset with me because a drunk girl named Jill crawled into my tent with me at Country Concert and you heard about it the next day? I swear, on my heart and soul, on the life of my son who is the very reason I live and breathe, that I didn’t so much as hold that girl’s hand. Because of you. Because you mattered.

If we went to grade school together, high school together (in Ohio or Illinois), college together (so many things I DON’T remember), or worked closely together, you can take to the bank that you matter to me. That I feel connected to you. That I’m sorry for any role I’ve played in any disconnection that now exists.

And if I die today, my biggest regret will be my failure to show you how much you matter.

The nurse wrote: “That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.”

Nothing matters more.

Focus on what matters.

It will be unselfish.

But you’ll really be doing it for yourself.

“A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.” – Charles Goodyear

5. Give yourself permission to choose happiness.

Give yourself permission to choose yourself. To be happy. To let go. To not give a shit what that person thinks. I worry SO MUCH about what people think of me. It’s likely my greatest personal weakness.

When you choose other people’s feelings about you over your own feelings about you, you always lose. Your life will be dissatisfying. You’ll constantly be chasing approval that doesn’t matter.

No one’s opinion of you matters except your own.

Today, you decide who you are. Not your friends at school. Not those people at work. Not those guys in the car next to you. Not your parents. Not people on television. Not your boyfriend. Not your wife. Not your kids.

Your past doesn’t define you.

If you’re the kind of person like me who chooses to behave sometimes out of fear of what others might think of you, then you have a bad habit.

Like smoking. Like eating poorly. Like biting your fingernails. Like belittling your spouse even when you’re “joking.” Like procrastinating.

Bad habits can be broken.

And I hope you’ll try to break this one. I’m going to try.

Because all I want in this world is happiness. I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know what it looks like. It’s just a word. But it describes how I occasionally feel. And I choose to pursue that feeling. To pursue happiness. With vigor.

I choose myself. And I choose to feel good. Not shitty.

Sometimes I’ll succeed. Sometimes I’ll fail. But I’m going to keep trying.

Because practice makes perfect.

Because I know we can do it.

Because choosing happiness can be habit forming.

I make bad decisions.

But not all the time.

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde

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