Feedback (Part 9)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or from private messages. I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to every single one I receive (unless I somehow become a super famous advice columnist on accident).

1. Hi! I read your most recent blog post where you mention keeping a checklist. I have difficulty getting almost anything done and tend to leave things for the last minute. I’ve tried dozens of times to start a checklist system such as yours, but it never seems to work. Even when I check off every box on my list, I don’t get much/any satisfaction or pride from the completion. This makes it very difficult to develop good habits. Do you have any recommendations for different systems, or know how to develop happiness from accomplishment?

It is a little ironic that this question came to me when it did because I’m coming off of a pretty bad non-productive relapse. Since Thursday my productivity has fallen pretty sharply and I fell back into bad habits like eating junk, drinking too much, slacking on my exercise, not meditating or reading or writing, etc. Basically, my checklist system failed me and I failed my checklist system.

I don’t know in particular how to develop more happiness from checklists and accomplishments, but I wonder if there is a biological reason for you lacking this motivation (clearly I’m not a doctor, I’m just spitballing here). Accomplishing things releases dopamine into our brains, which feels good and encourages us to keep accomplishing things. It could be possible that you have a dietary deficiency of L-DOPA, which is the precursor to dopamine. L-DOPA is synthesized from two amino acids (phenylalanine and tyrosine) which are found in nearly every protein. I don’t know what your diet or health is like, but it seems plausible that your body isn’t getting enough of those amino acids or they aren’t being synthesized properly for some reason.

Okay, onto my non-medical thoughts… is there anything in your life that does trigger that reward pleasure system? Would it be possible to reward yourself more directly when you check everything off your list with a warm bath, a nice craft beer, a piece of chocolate, or some time playing video games? Maybe if you reward yourself directly it will increase the strength of the neuro paths that connect accomplishing something and dopamine release to the point where you don’t need the reward. I’m pretty sure it was in “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin that a similar technique was used to increase productivity and reduce stress before important meetings or competitions.

As for other systems, I just started reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and I’m thinking about directly implementing the approach he sets out. The basic premise is to figure out what one task you should focus on to maximize your productivity. This technique feels like the opposite of what I do with my checklist of 35 daily goals and inputs that I monitor, but given my recent relapse, it might be time to change things up and try a new system. I have found that a few of the things that I try to do regularly have become strong habits… my daily stoic readings, morning runs, and taking my nootropic supplements all come really naturally to me right now, but some of my habits like practicing Spanish, meditating, and writing daily I still struggle with. Though, now that I think about it, the month when I wrote my book I was pretty singularly focused on that. The only thing I demanded that I accomplish each day was sitting down and writing a few chapters. When that was my priority I knocked it out pretty quickly and each day became a little easier.

Oh, additionally, I’ve heard the book “The Power of Habit” is really good. It is sitting on my shelf but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll report back when I finally do.

I feel like this wasn’t really much help. Sorry 🙁

2. Where you at on the topic of incest?

Ahh, incest. One of those uncomfortable topics where people tend to get really emotional about because of the disgust they feel (zoophilia is another similar topic). I guess my thoughts on incest come from three different directions: personal, ethical, and legal. Note: I am assuming all parties are consenting adults. If that isn’t the case then my views change, but that isn’t necessarily because of incest but because someone involved can’t consent.

The first two ways are pretty simple. Personally, it doesn’t appeal to me. I have no sexual attraction to any direct relatives. I will admit that one of my first feelings of sexual curiosity was towards a non-biological cousin of mine when I was young (maybe six or seven?). She was visiting my family and getting dressed for a wedding or something and I snuck outside to try and peek into the bedroom window while she changed. I don’t think this was really an incestuous thing, it was more my first opportunity to see a girl naked that I didn’t live with. I was curious.

Anyway, incest isn’t something that appeals to me, but I think it appeals to more people than they’d like to admit. Porn sites are filled with “incest adjacent” scenes with stepsiblings hooking up or stepparents hooking up with their stepchildren. This seems like a cover for people who are turned on by the incest taboo. I don’t know exactly how popular this style of porn is, but a quick search of the winners of the sex stories categoria at watchersweb.com finds that all but four winners of the “true sex story” since 2016 mentioned a family member in the title (two moms, two aunts, one brother, one step sister, two sisters, two sister-in-laws, one step-daughter, one step brother). So, while people may say they are disgusted by incest there is sort of a revealed preference that says otherwise because these stories are both being written and voted on to the point where people earn money for writing them.

As for my ethical views, I see nothing wrong with it ethically as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. It doesn’t harm anyone.

Legally, I don’t think it should be illegal. Filling our prisons with people who have consensual sex is a waste of resources and it is not going to deter people from the actions. We have no control over our sexual desires or who we are attracted to and to criminalize thoughts or sexual behavior will only push the behavior underground, making things worse.

Second, I know people will say that maybe it should be legal as long as children aren’t created. This view is problematic. The likelihood of serious birth defects because one generation of siblings have a child is incredibly low, but even if it wasn’t low I think it is problematic to restrict people’s rights based on genetic probability. Should we do this for every couple who wants a child? If certain diseases have a high genetic component should we stop people from breeding if they are carriers? I think one of the largest misuse of the justice system is using it to punish people for potential harm instead of actual harm. You see this in the war on drugs a lot, we put people in prison for using a drug because we think that there is a possibility that they will harm someone, not because that individual actually has. Both liberals and conservatives support this type of legislative power, though the subjects differ… some say we shouldn’t be able to have guns because we might hurt someone and others say we shouldn’t be able to have drugs because we might hurt someone. It is a pre-crime philosophy of laws that I find pretty terrifying and one of the core reasons that our system is so jacked up.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on incest. If you’re interested, check out the Wikipedia page about the Westermarck effect which is a theory about reverse sexual imprinting that prevents sexual attraction to people we live with during key developmental years. It is well documented that people tend to be attracted to others who look similar and the Westermarck effect seems to be an evolved trait to minimize incest.

That’s it for today if you have a question or comment for me feel free to fill out the SurveyMonkey form and I’ll get to it soon.

Triathlon For The Mind

Yesterday, while walking home from my weekly D&D game I was listening to a D&D podcast and the hosts used a phrase that I liked. The called D&D (and really, all role-playing games) a “triathlon for the mind”. These games are not just board games, the require use of both sides of the brain. You need to be logical, do a lot of math, and problem solve, and you also need to be creative, improvise, and communicate clearly. Dungeons & Dragons is practice for the real world because it involves practice in a created world, it is the opposite of our education system that tends to compartmentalize subjects.

D&D is perfect for artists of all types. It is an opportunity to work out your brain in a way that is rarely found outside of real life. It is a sandbox to play in with low real-world stakes. If you are an actor it is a chance to improvise, if you are an author you get to see how other people behave and think, if you are a visual artist you can gain an endless supply of inspiration for your paintings or drawings. It is an opportunity to peel back the masks of reality and see what is underneath, it is a chance to practice our craft in a new world and take those lessons into the real world. (There are even mental health professionals who are using role-playing games in their practice, and role-playing is one of the most common bedroom activities to bring in a little variety… considering I’m interested in becoming a therapist and sexual variety is important to me and my non-monogamous partner this really appeals to me)

Needless to say, I’m loving D&D but I’m not sure that I’m taking advantage of the opportunity. Part of it is the character I created, as a former soldier turned monk the character is a very close mirror to my life experience (soldier turned peace advocate). Due to the similarity between my character and myself I find myself falling into comfortable routines… a bit introverted and indifferent to decisions, but that may be beneficial. I am still learning the mechanics of the game and the personalities of the other players and their characters.

When we move on to a new game I plan on breaking out of my shell a little bit. I still find myself drawn to the well-established archetypes that aren’t particularly creative. But again, maybe that’s okay. This is a new experience for me and it seems like it is good to move slowly. You gotta crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Hopefully, as the months go on I will get more creative and create more nuanced and complicated characters, and as that happens I hope my creative writing and other artistic pursuits will benefit.

Bitcoin, Etc.

Since 2013, I’ve been occasionally buying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a way to add some diversity to my investments. I don’t know exactly how the blockchain works (though, the book “What’s The Big Deal About Bitcoin?” did clear it up a little), but I also don’t completely understand how stocks, bonds, etc. work either. I invest in them because people I trust who are more knowledgeable about the details invest in them. Also, it is kind of fun.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, there are a lot of haters out there when it comes to cryptocurrencies. In my experience, they roughly fall in the following, often overlapping, categories:

  • Goldbugs: These people think that returning to gold as the only currency is both desirable and possible. They also tend to see auditing the Fed as the most important issue and probably want Ron Paul to run for King in 2020 when he is 84 years old. They also may have (or wish they had) gold bars stashed around their house for when society inevitably collapses.
  • Ignorant to How It Works: Admittadly, I fall a bit in this category, but I am more optimistic about how things are progressing.
  • US Centric People: Some people don’t look outside of the US for growth or progress or potential. To me, areas like Asia, Africa, and Latin America are the most exciting for long-term wealth creation, and those areas are also seeing substantial growth in the use of crypto-currencies.
  • True Haters: These people hate to see other people succeed in ways that they didn’t. They also tend to be a bit traditionalist and think there is only one way to success and act a bit disgusted if you enjoy life without kids, spend your years traveling, or do something creative to succeed. If you don’t just put your head down and work hard for 50 years then you are cheating. To them, hard work is an objectively good thing even if it makes you miserable and shortens your life.

Certainly, not all criticism of cryptocurrencies fall into these categories, but this has been my experience. When I share something about making good money on Ethereum or gambling a little with Ripple, they come out of the woodwork to tell me how I’m living my life wrong (which is more than a little ironic considering they tend to call themselves libertarians). Despite a very myopic view with limited experiences they tend to think they know what is best for me and for society. It is a pretty anti-market and totalitarian point of view.

Luckily, they don’t really matter to me. If anything I find them to be an interesting case study in how people respond to disruptive technology and they make a quick blog post when I’m not feeling particularly inspired. I’m optimistic about the future of the blockchain and setting aside 10% of my investments for cryptocurrencies seems like a pretty solid way to diversify. I probably won’t make a million dollars off it (though, that would be pretty nice), but I won’t lose my shirt either.

Do you want me to write about something or tell me I’m wrong or have a question for me? Feel free to send me an anonymous message at SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to

Yesterday Makes Today Easier

Every Sunday I create and print off a checklist table for the week. It includes things like work I need to do, habits I’m developing, exercise routines, and nutrition goals. At this point, there are twenty-eight things I want to check off… and man it feels so good to make that check mark, particularly the final one of the day.

I’ve found this method of planning to be incredibly valuable for me, particularly as someone who works from home. Many times throughout my day I feel a little unfocused or distracted and having a list like this gives me something concrete to do. I can look down and see that I haven’t meditated, eaten enough nuts and seeds, gone Pokehunting, or written a blog post, this gives me options for things to get done.

When I look at this piece of paper and see that I’ve gone on a morning run for the last five days straight it makes me want to keep up that pattern. It is added motivation. I don’t want my laziness to be what breaks the daily trend of positive behavior, it is added motivation. Usually, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t work it starts a trend of negative behavior, taking one day off turns into two and then a week, and it is increasingly difficult to get back into my routine.

In fact, that is exactly what today’s meditation in “The Daily Stoic” was about, but it focused on eliminating bad habits as opposed to starting new ones. From Epictetus’ Discourses:

If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth… if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today , or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.

A psychologist friend of mine had a similar insight on a Facebook post I recently shared, but she brought some scientific insight. When we think about something repeatedly our brain wraps myelin around that connection, strengthening it and making it a more commonly used connection. Procrastinating today means tomorrow you’re more likely to procrastinate. Being jealous or angry today means that you’re more likely to feel those emotions tomorrow. Our mind loves efficiency, and by practicing habits (good and bad) those pathways increasingly become stronger and more efficient and, eventually, become the default path we take. Luckily, we have the ability to be aware of this and create new, healthier paths.

Multiple Scripts

I think I first heard the phrase “flip the script” from Isaac Morehouse. Regardless of where I heard it, it resonated with me. The basic concept is that there is a benefit to changing the burden of proof, to seeing a decision or process or situation from a different point of view. I’ve found this to be incredibly helpful in my own life particularly when it comes to decision making.

Inside each of us, there is an internal conflict. We want pleasure now, but we may want to avoid pain later. We want to avoid pain now, but our health later may be at risk. Whether it is working out, eating healthy food, firing an employee, taking the dog for a walk, quitting your job, or learning a foreign language, the conflict between “today me” and “tomorrow me” rages on, and it mostly rages on subconsciously (at least for me).

To help with this I’ve been trying to consciously flip the script when I make decisions. When I am getting a bowl of ice cream from the freezer after dinner I need to decide how much to eat. My first instinct is to eat a full bowl, it will taste delicious and release all those beautiful chemicals in my brain. My first response is always an immediate pleasure, I guess I’m a natural hedonist. But I know that approaching it from a couple other angles will be better.

Will I regret that bowl of ice cream tomorrow when I get up to run or when I see the results of constant ice cream eating in six months? (Probably)

In ten minutes will my pleasure from a bowl of ice cream be substantially greater than two spoonfuls? (Spoiler: It probably won’t be)

I’m I going to feel regret tomorrow if I decide not to eat the ice cream? (Also, probably not)

Is there a chance that eating a bowl of ice cream will set off a domino effect of bad decisions? Will one bowl lead to two bowls? Will it make me feel lazy for the rest of the night and procrastinate? Will all the sugar upset my stomach?

Would I prefer to eat two spoonfuls of ice cream every day for a month instead of a bowl once a week (or even worse, a bowl every day and spending four times as much money on ice cream)? What other use can I find for those calories and money?

I’m not saying that we should avoid having fun or pleasurable things just because the long-term outcome wouldn’t be ideal, but I think there can be a balance. My explicitly asking myself these questions it has helped me eat healthily, exercise more regularly, and spend my money more wisely. Pleasure and suffering are both fleeting, maybe pleasure today isn’t worth the long-term harm and maybe discomfort today is worth the long-term benefits.

There are so many ways to view a situation and we do ourselves a disservice if we let our subconscious always run the show.

Things I Knew

On my 20th birthday, I celebrated at a pizza place in Gresham, Oregon. My hair was fire-engine red, my face pocked with acne, and I carried a few extra pounds around my belly that came from two decades of minimal exercise and poor nutrition. I was surrounded by family and friends, including the woman who was my first kiss, my first blowjob, and my first love. It was a fun occasion, but there was a sadness beneath the surface. It was 2001 and the 9/11 attacks had happened one month earlier, and in response to those attacks, I walked into a recruiters office to join the army. While we smiled and celebrated our minds were on one thing: in three weeks I would be shipping off to basic training and, if everything went well, the war would soon to follow.

I didn’t really think about my future much, particularly what would happen after my military service, but I did know a few things. Once my enlistment was over I was going to move back to Oregon, marry a nice Christian girl, go to college, and have a bundle of kids. I would become a police officer, probably in Gresham, and spend my life in the same town I grew up in. I was a Christian conservative and my duty was to God, Country, and Family (though, not necessarily in that order).

On my 25th birthday, I was wasted in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was in the final year of my Associate’s degree at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and my personal life was in shambles. I had recently discovered that my fiance had been cheating on me for a long time and I felt trapped in a town where I had no social network. For the most part, she had prevented me from making friends but I had a couple that stayed with me after it all. Those friends and I drank martinis, acted dumb, and then they took care of me when I vomited all over the road.

I didn’t have a plan for my future at that point, particularly after college. I really only knew that I was going to College of Charleston to major in Economics. After that, I was going to get a Ph.D. in Economics from somewhere far away from the South. I knew that relationships were worthless, emotions were a weakness, and the government was evil. I was an agnostic libertarian and the only duty I had was to Myself and My Freedom.

On my 30th birthday, I looked with joy at all my friends who came out to celebrate. We were at my apartment in Alexandria, Virginia and dozens of people were imbibing on my sangria, playing drinking games, and discussing deep issues. One of my girlfriends was there as well and when the night finally wound down we retreated back to my room for some private celebration.

The future was vague, but I had a plan or two. I knew that I was going on a bike ride soon across the country to move to Los Angeles. Once there, I would improvise. I wasn’t opposed to relationships, but I knew marriage wasn’t for me. I loved to travel, excitement, and such too much. I was a spiritually indifferent burner polyamorist anarchist and my duty was to Love, Community, and Personal Growth.

On my 35th birthday, my wife and I shared a glass of scotch before going out to our favorite bottle shop to drink a beer. We were in Wilmington, North Carolina and had just moved into a new home. We had started planning what part of the yard we would have our vegetable garden and we were slowly acquiring furniture. After two years traveling around the US together, we had decided to take a break and try a new style of life… well, new for us. I was beginning to study to become a therapist that either specializes in using MDMA as a therapy tool or working with LGBT, kinky, and non-monogamous individuals and families.

The future is unknown, and now I don’t even try to plan. I have no idea who I will be, what my desires will be, or what opportunities will present themselves. I’m okay with that. Maybe it is wisdom or maybe it is foolishness, but I’m just not worried about the future. I know I can roll with the punches and if my old identity or plan is destroyed then a more beautiful and true version will emerge from that shell.

Humans ability to adapt may be our most important feature. We can thrive and celebrate and feel joy in a wide range of conditions and I feel like it would be a real shame if I locked myself into one and neglect all that potential. On my 40th birthday maybe I’ll be living in South America working on a novel or maybe I’ll have a private therapy practice in Santa Fe or maybe I’ll be cycling around Asia or maybe I’ll be running the east coast operations for a housing analysis company or maybe none of those things. I’m not worried about it, these things work out when you let the universe just do its thing and make decisions when they need to be made instead of spending all your time preparing for the future. The future doesn’t exist, only the present exists, and there is a long time before the present becomes the future and an infinite amount of various circumstances that will come my way before the future arrives.

I am Peter and I am in love with my current moment and excited for the moments to come, even if I have no idea what they will look like.

Feedback (Part 8)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to every single one I receive (unless I somehow become a super famous advice columnest on accident).

Hi Peter, we met years ago in DC in KAP (Koch Associate Program) and I regret we did not become better friends because you never fail to be interesting and thought provoking, and I enjoy interesting and thought provoking. What I wonder is this — why are you so open about your life? I hate for this to sound like a judgmental question, it is just so far from my own personality that I admit to being baffled and curious. Thanks!

Hi stranger!

Thanks for reaching out. First off, I am torn on whether I wish we would have become better friends in KAP. During that time I was kind of douchie and very sex-obsessed and really fighting with my PTSD. Much of my interactions were based on trying to get laid, but I would like to think I’ve matured a bit since then (though some might disagree) and my views have evolved a bit as well. Hopefully, though, you and I can become better friends now.

So, on to your question. Why am I so open about my life?

Hmm, in some ways I’ve always been this way. Growing up I was pretty outspoken about controversial things. Unfortunately, the things that were controversial were my shitty views about homosexuality. I was the type of person who would gather for prayer around a flagpole (which isn’t bad in and of itself) and tell gay people that they were sinners or take cigarettes out of people’s mouths because they were unhealthy. I was a self-righteous dickhole who thought my theological beliefs were the final word on what was good, and that anything I did because of those beliefs was justified. I kind of sucked.

Things changed a bit when I got out of the military. I found myself uncomfortable with American Christianity and conservatism, and I also came to be comfortable with my own sexuality. I believe that much of my angry self-righteousness and internal conflict (that manifested itself in many unhealthy ways) came from essentially living a lie. I had to pretend to believe and be a certain person around family and friends because that is what they wanted or expected. I basically felt like I had to sacrifice my own mental health because if I let the truth be known it would break my families heart or they would worry about me going to hell.

That internal struggle, living in the dark, had to end at some point and (very luckily) it ended with me being open and honest instead of ending my own life. I realize not everyone has this type of public/private conflict, but facing that conflict is part of why I am so open today. I know that there is a difference between living a life true to who you are and standing on a hill with a flag advertising to strangers on the internet who you are, and I definitely fall into the latter category. Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it)

Well, as I became more open to myself and family and friends (which was far from a smooth process and I lost friends and family during it) I started having people who I didn’t know that well contact me. Even when I was more subdued online I still shared controversial articles about polyamory, spirituality, anarchy, drug use, etc. fairly safely by claiming I found the subject “interesting”, and sharing those articles became a stepping stone to expressing my views about them. Sharing those articles became a way for like-minded people to feel safe asking me questions and it was a way for me to help people around the globe (that sounds cocky… I don’t mean it that way).

I guess that is really the reason why I am open with my life at this point because there are some people who can’t be open but need to feel like they are not alone. Like Dan Savage says, the best thing you can do to help other people is to step out of the closet. I have received countless messages from people I knew in high school, the military, college, DC, LA, and basically strangers thanking me because they felt same-sex attraction too and didn’t know what to make of it, or they use drugs or battle PTSD or want to be childless or are no longer religious. I believe that when I live out loud, when I let my freak flag fly, it is the healthiest way for me to live and it is a way to provide support for other people. I don’t know if I would call it a “duty” to others, but I know it is a duty to myself.

I hope that answered the question, but if not, please shoot me another message and I’ll try to do better. 🙂

Strugglebus

Moving to Wilmington has not been as easy as I imagined it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I love this town and I think moving here was the right decision. The amount of freedom and power that I feel from choosing my own city to live in without worrying about school, family, or work is incredible. But, it has been difficult, showing up in a new city with minimal social support makes it difficult to make friends, particularly when I work from home (definitely not complaining about that, but it creates challenges).

My mental health has been on the low end for the last couple months and I’ve been getting back into some bad habits, primarily unhealthy drinking and eating habits and too much time on the computer, and my workout and writing routines had both floundered. My imposter syndrome has hit pretty hard recently and my trichotillomania started coming back (which is never a good sign). To be honest, I was getting pretty down but this week things are really looking up.

I finally feel like I have a decent social routine and I’m making friends. I had friends in town before but I felt like I was often a drain or a burden when I wanted to hang out because they have their own lives and social groups that they’ve developed for years, but things have changed a bit now. I joined a kickball league, found a running buddy, started playing D&D with a fucking awesome group of people (who seem to have some dirty minds… which I love), started going to yoga at a local brewery, and I plan on volunteering with a local organization on Friday. I even might start going to the Unitarian Church near my house. My partner and I have also started going out to bike rides and other local events (though, we haven’t really exchanged numbers with anyone… it is so weird being an adult and trying to meet other adult friends as an introverted person).

To be honest, the only real “hole” in my social network is meeting other people who are poly/sexually open and/or into recreational MDMA use. Basically, I don’t have a “burner” crowd here. But that’s okay, maybe I’ll find people that I can talk to about those issues in person or maybe I won’t. If I don’t find those people in real life I have my amazing Facebook friends to chat with. Right now I’m in a handful of secret Facebook groups made up of like-minded people and it is my favorite thing about Facebook. The newsfeed is always garbage, but those groups are where I feel I can talk about anything and truly be myself. I can let my hair down (well, that isn’t currently a real thing but it will be once my locks return to their former glory… I should never have cut my hair or beard).

Facebook provides a great service but I also feel like it has a dark side for me. The friends I have on there are amazing, but I feel like having that safety net prevents me from actually getting out and doing things in the real world. The network provides enough support to keep my mental health from hitting rock bottom, but then I lack the motivation to meet new people. I think I just need to find a balance between the two. Both networks serve a purpose in life, I need family in the cyber world and the physical world, and it really only becomes a problem when I let one realm monopolize my life. My life satisfaction requires variety, diversity, and active experimentation.

As always, if you’ve got a random question or comment that you’d like me to address feel free to send me an anonymous message at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH

One More Try…

My life, and particularly the last six months, is littered with abandoned projects. I’ve started everything from dancing poi to training for a marathon to learning German to woodworking and I’ve given up on every project. I’ve read self-help books about becoming financially secure, more artistic, and a multi-orgasmic man; but once I complete the book I have never stuck with the programs that they outline. I always quit. My steam runs out. The novelty of a new project becomes nothing more than a chore. Every. Damn. Time.

In fact, the only real lifestyle change that I’ve made in my life is becoming vegan and that still requires constant work and temptation avoidance. This new habit has only been successful for me because I have three pillars that encourage success: mind, body, and community. I see minimizing suffering as an ethical issue (mind), cutting out meat and dairy is a healthy choice (body), and I have a partner who is also vegan and we keep each other accountable (community).

So, given my success rate of about 1%, it would make sense to just give up. Right? I mean, who wants to keep betting on someone who has such a history of embarrassing failure and mental weakness? I guess I do because I keep finding new projects that I want to do and new ways to experiment with my body and mind. I’m just going to keep trying to be better, but hopefully

I’m just going to keep trying to be better, but hopefully, I can take what I’ve learned from my success and apply it to my new projects. I need to find a way to link mind, body, and community into learning Spanish, the harmonica, the Hof method, writing another novel, and physical fitness. I need new projects to have its tentacles in every part of my being. I am not successful when I compartmentalize things, I want my very soul to envelop my projects.

Basically, I’m going to keep pressing on until I die. I’d rather my life be a graveyard of failures than one of paths untrodden.

As always, if you’ve got a random question or comment that you’d like me to address feel free to send me an anonymous message at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH 🙂

But, what if it sucks?

I was recently SnapChatting with a friend and former colleague of mine when the subject of sex came up. The fact that the conversation went that direction is not really much of a surprise. She and I have a flirtatious history and many people (including us) thought that we would hook up at some point. But, alas, circumstances never really matched up for us bang but we remain good friends (and still occasionally sext).

As we discussed whether we would eventually hook up (I think it is likely) we talked about whether it would be good or not and, in particular, what would happen to our friendship if the sex was bad. I don’t think it would be bad… we are both friendly, generous, fun-loving people… but if it was bad I don’t think that would be a big deal. A bad sexual experience is something that we would just laugh about because our self-confidence isn’t based on something with so many unknown variables like a great sexual experience. A friendship that can’t handle bad sex or the awkwardness that comes from getting naked together isn’t a very strong friendship.

Besides, it probably wouldn’t be bad. Realistically, I don’t think it would be mind-blowingly great either. People (at least in my experience) are generally kind of awkward and weird the first time they hook up. There is an excitement in exploring a new body and new sensations, but there is also a lack of knowledge about what will pleasure the person. There is a learning curve that doesn’t exist with a regular partner. I think sex with my partner is amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for a new experience (luckily, I don’t have to) but new experiences also bring variety and a fresh perspective.

The truth is, if/when she and I hook up it’ll probably be “pretty good”. Our minds tend to live in extremes, everything will be absolutely terrible or absolutely wonderful, but reality is kind of mediocre. We put special events like sex, weddings, and vacations on this pedestal that can’t help but be a bit of a letdown when our fantasies collide with reality. And we assume certain terrible things will destroy our lives, whether that be the death of a family member, losing your job, becoming paralyzed, etc. but we actually recover quickly if we allow ourselves too. That is part of why I have found so much strength in mindfulness meditation and the Stoic philosophy, they allow me to live in the moment and see reality for what it is, and to only worry about what is under my control.

But, maybe the sex would suck. Maybe it would be terrible. Maybe neither of us feel a lick of pleasure or joy or satisfaction. Instead, we fumble around uncomfortably and lose all sexual desire for each other. Well, that would be okay. She is a dear friend and I’m not keeping in touch with her as a sort of investment where I expect sex later. Nobody is a sexual Roth IRA that you plug time into monthly and expect to withdraw an orgasmic payoff down the road. If the sex is bad, we will laugh about it, drink a beer, and go about our lives with one less thing to be curious about. It is better to have a few bad experiences than spend your short life wondering “what if”.

Hey! I’m always looking for things to write about. Have you got a question or comment for me? Feel free to submit anonymously to my SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH). No subject is off limits (just see some of my previous questions here to get a feel for what people ask about… it is mostly sex)