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Thoughts

Hey all! If you’re here, then you probably read my Listserve email, or you’re one of the regular 7 readers I have on a daily basis. If you’re the former, then welcome! If you’re the latter, thank you for your continued support, but most of you are all related to me in one way or another and know my life story. So, this is really for the people coming in for the first time.

If you’ve ever won the Listserve, than you know what it’s like to get that celebratory gleam in your eye when you open your inbox to find the “undefined – you’ve won’ from Zena Koo (who, just seems really cool, btw!), then it’s followed by the panicky “holy shit, what should I write?” – “why didn’t I do this a long time ago?” – “I’m gonna come across like an idiot!!”

The 48 hour crunch

Well, I spent the last 48 hours thinking….literally almost every moment. Now, that’s not necessarily different from any other day. I genuinely like to think, but during working hours it’s for clients, and during off hours it’s for myself, not about myself. That usually happens in spurts when I meditate for four minutes, or when I’m driving and nostalgically thinking about my past or ex-girlfriends or something along those lines. But for (almost) 48 hours, I thought about how I could summarize my life in less than 600 words. Or how I could take a really cool moment from my life and turn it into a parable that got across a life lesson that I wanted everyone to magically realize. And I failed…horribly.

I ended up writing about something that I think is interesting – context awareness – I’m not going to regurgitate what I said, but you will see a lot more of context aware design in the websites that we visit, the apps that we love, and the web as a whole to give us (the users) a better experience. Look out for it. But what I’d like to do in this post is just give you a little more background on me, my life, and why it was hard to summarize in 600 words (as I’m sure needs no explanation because everyones’ lives are hard to summarize in 600 words!). But I also want to let everyone know that I meant what I said, reach out, let’s talk. It might take me a while to get back to people, but I like personalized experiences and I like people.

My Life in Under 600 Words…

People have told me that I’ve had an interesting life, an exciting one. But I’m not sure I feel that way. I was born and raised in New England, in a small somewhat coastal but a little more inland mill town with the population of about 30,000. Childhood was cool, high school was….well, high school. But when I graduated, I moved to Hollywood to become a rockstar.  I imagined that to be a little easier than it actually was. Going to auditions, finding musicians who lined up with our style (I went out there with my best friend/lead guitarist) was a grind! And then I got caught up in that whole ‘survival’ thing where you actually had to make money to pay for rent and eat, ha!

Throughout the first 8 years after high school, Hollywood was kind of like a homebase for me, but I ended up driving all over the place. I’ve driven across the country probably close to 20 times. Taken the 70, 80, 90, 40, 15 heading to Vegas, the 10 heading to LA, the 5 heading away from it. I’ve driven through blizzards in Colorado and hailstorms in Kansas. Seen the tumbleweeds of Texas and the colorful canyons of Utah. Stopped at the Grand Canyon one time; Manhattan is gorgeous at 3 in the morning. Pennsylvania took 6 hours, parts of Maryland 6 minutes. And all that time on the road in my early to mid 20’s, I felt as long as I was physically moving, I was progressing in life when I was really just running away from it.

Habitations and the towns we know…

I’ve lived in L.A., Montreal, Dorchester (Boston), smalltown Connecticut, have had extended stays in Colorado, Mexico, and San Francisco (that city has character!). I’m currently roaming in and around Providence, RI. I love this city, it’s small, but has a big feel to it, hip and historic, and inhabits some of the coolest people I’ve met on earth.

I’ve primarily worked in 3 main industries: sales, construction, and technology. But I did a 3 month stint as a garbage man (hated that gig!), drove limos in L.A. for about two months (traffic sucked!), and waited tables for a summer (where I saw the best and worst of people). I used to race motorcycles (not professionally), I had an interesting conversation with Matt Damon one time (which I’m sure he doesn’t remember), and I had an up close and personal encounter with the biggest elk I’ve ever seen (you thought I was going to say aliens, right?). I guess I haven’t lived an uninteresting life, but I’m not sure I would call it all that interesting, it’s just been my life.

The quiet period…

Nowadays, I sit behind a computer, I’m a strategist in the technology space. It’s kind of a catch-all title for people who like to talk and speak their minds. But my clients seem to like me and I do help them solve problems from time to time. I also do a lot of volunteer work with The United Way of Rhode Island’s Young Leaders Circle. Awesome group of professionals, join us if you’re in the area!

My days are much quieter now. But when I look back at my twenties, the only memories I seem to latch onto are the ones where I almost died and berms were involved:

  • Stranded in Colorado miles from the nearest town, almost got trampled by a stampede of angry cattle at 4 in the morning in the pitch dark crouched somewhere against a berm.
  • Somersaulted a motorcycle on a canyon road going about 70 mph because I was young, a risk-taker, and didn’t understand the physics of centrifugal force. Got stopped by a berm.
  • Flipped my truck on the 5 freeway heading up the grapevine in a rainstorm. I hydroplaned, which is an interesting thing to experience, hit a berm in a such a way that it actually catapulted the truck and flipped in mid air. Walked away without a scratch.
  • Got caught in a construction fire in a warehouse that made race-car bolts, everything seemed to be coated in oil and the sheetrocked offices lit up like a Christmas tree. No one got hurt and no berm involved.

They say you’ll remember the moments you have between the ages of 12 and 30 when you get older. Whoops, I’m 35 and these are the things I remember. I’d like to think that I have cooler experiences yet to come. And that’s on me, there’s something that I need to start doing again, which is living. It seems like lately I’ve traded that for a really good career and I’m not entirely sure that’s what I want. I want to meet cool people and grow and contribute and laugh and learn. But who has the time for that now?

My words of wisdom…

I’m not sure if I’m ever headed in the right direction. My life wasn’t the standard life of graduating high school, going to college, getting a degree, finding a good job, getting married, having kids, and saving for retirement. I just went for something, a dream, it didn’t happen but that’s ok. And as time has gone on, I feel like my dreams changed a little. I also feel like we live in a society that puts too much emphasis on doing the traditional, so here’s what I’ll say. Just go do something. I don’t care what it is as long as you’re not hurting yourself or someone else, just do something. I’ll leave you with a quote that I always use around the New Year by Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Again, don’t be afraid to reach out, I feel like some of the best friends I have I only connect with electronically.

  • Twitter: ajmatic
  • Snapchat: ajmatic
  • Instagram: adamlamagna
  • Linkedin: Adam Lamagna
  • Facebook: is usually reserved for my closest 500 friends, but if we connect on other channels first, then that’s cool!

Anyways, thanks for taking the time! Have an awesome day and go have fun doing something!!

As you all may know, I work with a group of professionals called the Young Leaders Circle for the United Way of Rhode Island. Every year we try to raise money to help the homeless and near homeless find affordable places to live, as this is something I think every American should have a right to – affordable housing. Last year we raised quite a bit of money, which is awesome. I put the fundraiser out over my social media channels and raised about $700 myself. This year I did something a little different. I told people that if they donated I would give them a genuine compliment, and genuine compliments are what I’ve been giving! I’ve managed to raise just over $1,000 this year and we still have a week to go, so we’ll see if we can get that number higher. But here’s what I’ve noticed…

People like compliments based on who they are, not what they look like…

People genuinely like genuine compliments. They get excited about them. Now, I’m not talking about giving someone a compliment based on their appearance, although those can be nice from time to time (“you are soooo hot!”), but I’m talking about really digging deep and finding those one or two things that you truly like about someone or see in someone and giving them that compliment.

I think it’s easy to say things like “you look really nice to today” or “I love the dress you’re wearing, you look beautiful in it.” And these compliments can be a good self-image booster for the recipient, so I don’t want to tell you not to do it, but try and figure out what’s special about this person and give them that as a compliment. Here’s an example from one of the 20 compliments I’ve given out on Facebook to those who made donations:

You’re an influencer in the best kind of way. You spread hope and cheer, you advocate for equality and tolerance, you’re a proponent for the truth, and you’re a protector of the good. I think you help people do the right thing, by doing the right thing yourself. You’ve been a monumental role model in my life and so many others, I’m glad we’re friends. And thank you for your donation!

That was a genuine compliment and well-received. Then I’d put the link below it to the fundraising page on Crowdrise and say “Donate to a great cause and get a genuine compliment from me” – it’s a good strategy, and one that brings joy all around. It’s kind of a win-win.

Genuine compliments breed positivity in others…

I’ve noticed since I started giving genuine compliments on Facebook for everyone to see, it has sparked a number of responses that all seem to be really positive. I’ll give you an example, an old friend posted this on my Facebook timeline:

“Just love the vibe you are bringing to the world right now.”

That is an awesome compliment and full of positivity, right!! I think genuine compliment-giving brings out the best in people. And in these crazy times of politics, debates, and our country in turmoil, genuine compliments can truly get people to see through all the garbage. It gets people jazzed about stuff. I think there’s just a lot of hate in the world and if we all start giving genuine compliments, maybe all of it can be a little better. Or maybe that’s just my idealism and positivity trying to shine through, some may call it being naive, and that’s ok.

 Genuine compliments help you connect with people…

This whole experiment of giving out genuine compliments in exchange for donations, although might sound a little corny, has helped me to reconnect with old friends. Which is awesome! There were a few people whom I haven’t talked with in years who actually donated some significant funds and yes, maybe they did it to get a genuine compliment, but I think it’s more than that. I think connection is one of the human necessities and people need to connect with others.

Giving genuine compliments not only makes the recipient feel good about themselves, but it forms a bond between you and the recipient. You connect if only for a split second, but in that moment there’s a connection that could last a lifetime because genuine compliments are remembered on both ends. With all the compliments I’ve given I have pinpointed something about the other person that I truly do like and admire, and that’s the compliment I give. It’s something that’ll be remembered.

Genuine compliments make you feel good…

I think we all know that giving out any type of compliment (well, a genuine one, at least) makes the recipient feel good about themselves, which I think is fantastic. But I’ve also noticed that it makes me feel pretty darn good about myself too! The compliments that I give are well thought out and well written, so it makes me think about the people I’m complimenting, which brings back good memories.

On the same token, it also makes me feel like I’m bringing something good to the world, right? Like, in the face of all this stuff we see on Facebook and in the media, there are these little bits of positivity and kindness sprinkled throughout, which really just makes me feel awesome inside!! I like the fact that people have expressed their interest in these compliments and how it’s made them feel too. It’s important to me to bring good into the world, and do good things, and be good, you know?

Give more genuine compliments…

So, what I’ll do is ask everyone to give more genuine compliments. Even if it’s only one more, just go give someone a genuine compliment. Think about it before you say it or write it to someone. Think about what makes this person different and unique. Why is this person in your life and what do they bring to it? How have they helped you in a way that others have not? What do you see in this person that you’d wish others could see in you? Ask these questions and more and give someone you know a genuine compliment today! It won’t only make them feel better, but it will make you feel better, and maybe someone around you will hear it (or see it) and go do the same. You can bring joy to this world by just being genuine.

And if anyone would like to donate (and get a genuine compliment from me (but it only works if I know you!)) then please donate here, there’s one week left!!

https://www.crowdrise.com/unitedwayRI2016/fundraiser/adamlamagna

I’ll leave you with one more compliment I wrote for a good friend of mine:

You have a lot of really awesome traits, but one of the coolest things about you is that you genuinely care. I mean, you deeply care about all of this (the world, your family, friends, strangers you just met). You connect with people because you’re an authentic human being. You’re outgoing, enthusiastic, and charismatic, and people feed off that energy. I’m also amazed at your pursuit of knowledge. Your motivation is impressive. You strive, you seek to educate yourself and by doing so you better yourself, and everyone can learn something from that. I’m thankful for our friendship, and thanks again for donating!

Positive Thinking and the Biology of Belief

July 24, 2016
Comments Off on Positive Thinking and the Biology of Belief

Have you ever had those days where everything just seems to go wrong? From the morning coffee wrong order, to hitting every red light on your way to work, to your boss starting in on you from the moment you walk off the elevator. It’s almost as if the world found out where you were hiding and decided to follow you around with that cold, black cloud. Well…hold up…just one second. That’s actually not a black cloud, that’s just your negative outlook and I know what you’re about to say… “ohhh, not another one of these posts!” If you can’t hang, I get it…but that’s just your negativity outshining your positive thinking…or lack there of. It’s been proven that negative thinking yields negative results. So that means that positive thinking yields positive results, right? Freaking a big “hells yeah!”

If you ever come across a book by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., entitled The Biology of Belief, make sure to pick it up , it’s a fantastic read. It kinda changed my life when I read it. But he starts by giving a bit of a biology lesson. Humans are made of cells. Cells are the smallest functional and structural unit of a DNA structure
human being, well…all organisms. Most of the cell’s structures are called organelles, we can think of these as tiny organs. Organelles are equivalent to our own organs and tissue of the human body. Lipton then goes on to compare the “biochemical mechanisms employed by cellular organelle systems are essentially the same mechanisms employed by our human organ systems.” Which is interesting if you think about. The smallest functional unit that makes humans human, are essentially little humans — ha! Each cell is an intelligent being that can survive on its own…like a human. Cells have systems that are equivalent to our respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. Pretty neat, eh?

Well, I think it’s neat! And it starts to tell the story of how we as humans (and cells) interpret things. Cells are basically humans that can survive on their own. When cells are removed from the body, they will actually seek out environments (and other cells) that support their survival — like humans. We analyze all these different factors in the outside world and determine whether or not it’s capable of supporting our survival. It’s our biological imperative. For those of you who don’t know what a biological imperative is:

Biological Imperative — an organisms need to perpetuate its own existence. Things like survivalism, territorialism, reproduction, seeking a better way of life, etc. are all biological imperatives, it’s mechanisms that we are born with.

But the point I’m trying to make is that even the tiniest structure (the cell) has these imperatives, they can survive on their own, and they seek out environments that they feel helps them survive. But how does all this play in to positive thinking? Well…that’s a great question!

Forget about Darwin and survival of the fittest

Darwin only had some of it right! Survival of the fittest is something we’ve heard and believe over and over again. That the handsomest man will get the girl, the smartest woman will get the high paying job, Darwin portraitthe strongest dude can never be beat. But this way of thinking is flawed and it traps people, it traps them to lead the lives they believe they were born to lead. That who they are and what they’ll do is ultimately decided for them because of the genes that they were born with. We are not powered by our genes, but by our environments, and the way we choose to interpret certain factors.

If you’re sick, you go to your family doctor. He takes a look at you, he might take some blood work, but he can’t figure out what’s wrong with you. He sends you to a specialist. That specialist digs a little deeper, gives you an X-Ray and MRI, but can’t figure it out. But if we take a step back and look at your environment and the things that you’ve been eating, touching, or around, you might see the problem. Holistic healing is starting to get a bit bigger in the states and takes a look at not just you, but your environment and the stimuli you receive because that’s the more practical path to get healthy.

How many people do you know that say stuff like “I’m a ticking time-bomb, my father had a heart attack, I’ll probably die before I’m 50” or “Well..my mother was depressed, so it’s just natural that I am too, it’s just in my genes.” – Too many, that’s for sure. And I’m not saying that their concerns aren’t valid, but they’re definitely not helping their situations by believing it and repeating it over and over. The reality is is that single-gene disorders (like cystic fibrosis) affect less than 2% of the population. So, people born with genes that they think “aren’t good” are trapping themselves. Most of us should be able to live very happy, healthy lives, but we don’t because of the environments we seek out, and the way we interpret stimuli.

Back to cellular biology

Scientists made a huge breakthrough during the 20th century about the cell’s structure. If you know anything about cells they are made up of a nucleus, Golgi apparatus, ribosomes, mitochondria, cytoplasm, a membrane, and a few other things. For the longest time, scientists thought that the nucleus of the cell was its brain, but when they removed the nucleus (called enucleation) the cell still survived for a few months. You would think that the since the “brain” of the cell is removed it would die right away, like us humans. But it didn’t. The only reason why it died after a few months is because it couldn’t reproduce itself, so one could argue that the nucleus of a cell is it’s reproductive organ.

a cell

Then what’s the brain of the cell? Well, Bruce Lipton P.h.D, would say it’s the membrane of a cell. The part that separates the cell’s internal parts with the outside environment and also interprets that environment. If you remember above I said that each of the cell’s organs are called organelles, and they mimc a human’s reproductive system, digestive system, nervous system, and the like. And there are different types of cells; eukaryotes, prokaryotes, etc. A eukaryote is an advanced cell with many organelles. A prokaryote — not so much, it doesn’t have nearly as many organelles. So what is its intelligence? The membrane. The membrane is the only organelle found in every single cell. Pretty cool, right?

The membrane of a human is our skin. And what does our skin do? It interprets the outside world. Now, I’m not saying that our skin is our brain, I know that isn’t true, but it does play a big factor into our daily lives. The way a cell operates is molded by its interaction with the environment, same as humans! We are molded by our interaction with our environment. When we mess up a speech at a public gathering, we get embarrassed and never want to publicly speak again. When a child goes to the circus and sees a clown, some get scared and end up having coulrophobia for life. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Humans, just like cells, are able to store prior stimuli and experiences into memory, which can affect the way you interpret new stimuli as well. So, if you think about it, the interpretation of one’s environment comes down to two things: your experience and your belief. What you know, and what you think. You can always change what you think.

Nocebos: The opposite of placebos

I’m sure everyone here knows what the placebo effect is. In medical treatment studies there are usually two groups of people; the control group, and the experimental group. The experimental group receives the real drug, whereas the control group gets a placebo (often times a sugar pill). But there are some really incredible outcomes of a placebo, people believe that they are getting the real drug and ultimately their disease seems cured. Doctors and scientists equate this with positive thinking or euphoria that comes from belief. Well, the opposite of that is the nocebo effect. Nocebos are detrimental effects on your health.

In 1974, a doctor by the name of Clifton Meador, had a patient (Sam Londe) who thought he was suffering from throat cancer (cancer of the esophagus). Now, in 1974, throat cancer was 100% fatal, so when Meador’s patient died a few weeks later, it was no surprise to anyone who was around him. But lo and behold, when they did the autopsy on throat cancer patient Sam, they found no signs of throat cancer. He didn’t actually die from cancer, then what did he die from? Well…no one really knows, but I’d make a strong argument that he died from the belief he was going to die. That’s not possible, is it?

Emotions, Chemical Communication, and the Power of our Minds

We have two minds as humans; conscious and subconscious. Our conscious minds are what makes us aware at the present moment. Our subconscious minds gives us accessible information. It enables us to drive on the highway and still talk to our passengers without stopping the car to converse.

As humans we have this unique function that converts chemical signals into sensations that can be experienced by all of our cells. Our minds tell our bodies that these signals are emotions. But as we’ve evolved over time, the portion of our forebrain is the seat of the “self-conscious” mind, which can observe our behavior and our emotions, and can also access our long-term memory. So as we move through our environments, we can make decisions based on all these factors — they way we feel, the way we think, and what we know.

emotional smiley faces

We can observe the behavior we’re engaged in, evaluate it, and then decide to change it if we want to. But we can also learn and acquire the perceptions of other people, which I find fascinating. Now all these things we learn or acquire, can become hardwired in our brain. How many times were you told that eating candy was bad for you as a child? Probably many? But is it bad for you — not in moderation, in fact it can be quite pleasing in moderation. We can change our “hardwired” beliefs any time we desire, we just have to start doing it.

The Biology of Belief

How many people with HIV don’t exhibit signs of being sick, or ever get full-blown aids? How many terminal cancer patients recover their lives through spontaneous remissions? Why do some people burn their feet while walking on hot coals and others do not? Well…because it’s the biology of belief. Beliefs control biology.

Take an example of one experience, let’s say your significant other breaks up with you, they dump you. And let’s say that that relationship you were in was awful, your friends kept telling how bad the other person was for you, they made you feel bad about yourself and all that stuff.  But you view the breakup as the worst thing to ever happen to you, and you can’t imagine living your life without this person (we’ve all been there!). You become depressed, you don’t feel good, your body starts to ache. You have to realize that our perception impacts our behavior and our bodies, regardless of whether or not our perceptions are accurate.

The point I want to make is that YOU have the power to believe what you want. And then that belief can control the way you interpret other experiences and you can shape the life you want for yourself.

Let’s go back to the placebo effect, there are pharmaceutical companies that test out their drugs on two groups, control and experimental. The control group gets a placebo, but there are lots of studies that show that control groups have the same rate of recovery as their experimental counterparts who are receiving the real drug (uh-oh pharmaceutical companies!!).

A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine, evaluated patients who were having knee surgeries because of debilitating knee pain. Dr. Bruce Moseley, who was the lead author for this study, stated that “all good surgeons know there is no placebo effect in surgery.”  This study separated patients into 3 groups.

  • The first group got their damaged cartilage in the knee shaved off
  • The second group got their knee joint flushed out, removing material thought to be causing the inflammatory effect
  • The third group got “fake” surgeries. Dr. Moseley made 3 incisions and simulated getting the real surgery

The results were pretty interesting! The two groups who received the real surgery improved, as expected. But the placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups, pretty cool, huh? Reporters flocked to the patients in the placebo group and got footage of them walking around and playing basketball, doing things they “never could’ve done” before the surgery. The placebo patients didn’t find out for two years that they had gotten fake surgeries. Tim Perez, one of the placebo group patients had a revealing quote after he was told about his surgery — “In this world anything is possible when you put your mind to it. I know that your mind can work miracles.”

Yes, your mind can work miracles…but so do you!

Your mind can do some pretty amazing things. If it can get your cancer to go into remission, or make you walk after a fake knee surgery, then it can by all means make your life better!

Positive thinking and the will to strive for more has been a huge player in my success.

Positive thinking and the will to strive for more has been a huge factor in my success. Notice how I added “the will to strive for more.” Positive thinking is super important, but you also have to do things to actively make your situation better. Learn something new, talk to someone new, put yourself in a place you’ve never been before….and think positively about it.

So, the next time they mess up your order at your local coffee shop, remember a few things. One — thinking positively about it won’t miraculously change your order to what you wanted it to be. Two — but it will send out a signal to the person who messed it up and they’ll be more open to fixing it if your positive attitude shines through. Three — positive thinking will lead to something better and more fulfilling, maybe even a refund for the mess up!

Belief controls biology, so believe in something great and control your life!

 

Revised Listserve… and the Hamster Wheel

June 18, 2016
Comments Off on Revised Listserve… and the Hamster Wheel

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.

I wrote a post a while ago on what I would write if I won the listserve. It’s a cool community of about 25,000 people, all over the world, who are on an email list. Every single day a new winner emerges and gets to write a single email to the ever-growing subscriber list. That email can say whatever you want it to say, you can write and inform and inspire and vent and reminisce as long as you don’t add any links of any kind. So, no links to your business or website or blog or whatever, but you can promote yourself or your music or your art or your creativity or whatever, any way you’d like.

Communities that captivate…

I’ve been an avid member of this community for over a year now, I’ve never won…..bummer. Yet there is still hope that I will one day have my time in the spotlight to speak to the other members of this community.

The Listserve in textI’ve been captivated by people’s willingness to share their lives, it’s as breathtaking as it is depressing. And I mean that in a way that connotes true deep sadness from my own life. Because…. I think I’ve forgotten the meaning of my own life. People talk about certain moments in their life that changed them, parents discuss their child being transgender, or how saving the life of a stranger morphed them, or how their job could either help or destroy a life, or a high-schooler contemplating his options for college and how it’s such a dramatic decision. People take these moments, they take their lives, and they need to attach a meaning to it, because meaning is what we are all here for.

We all have meaning…it’s the reason we do things we don’t necessarily want to do.

We all have meaning (or at least I hope we do), it’s the reason we get up in the morning, it’s the reason we do things we don’t necessarily want to do. But without that meaning, life is lost. I feel as we grow older, that meaning changes into something we didn’t necessarily mean it to change into. I get that dreams fade, or disappear, or you tell yourself you’re an adult now, so your dream of being an artist has just got to be a hobby. And that’s ok, except for when you resign yourself to the fact that “this is it” — that’s a horrible place to be.

People say get a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. But as most of us know, that’s hard to do. If you had millions of dollars and never had to work another day in your life, what would you spend your time doing?

The heartbreak that I feel sometimes and this dysphoria inside makes me gaze back on my previous years, the ones that are long behind me, yet still dance around my mind like party-goers on a mischievous night. I’ve had moments too that change me. Moments that add meaning to my life. Moments that are so meaningful you segment your life into two sections: before this moment, and after it.

It makes me want to search again, to find anything that’s meaningful, to feel anything that isn’t the numbness of my everyday life. But I’m here, writing this post, instead of out there, trying to live.

inspiring sunset over an island ocean
Random Sunset Image
Hopefully that cheered you up from my depressing rant!

I glimpse inward and realize that my life has come to a cross-roads…as many lives do over the course of a natural life-span. I am not close to where I want to be. I am living on the edge of a precipice that is miles outside the inner warmth of my most prized possession—my happiness. And I believe I’m not alone.

Technology and its correlation to our lives…

I recently wrote a post on the affects of technology in our culture and I’ve briefly searched the internet to find a lot more on the subject: We are not obligated to build our lives around technology and Technology is changing how we live, but it needs to change how we work. And the list goes on and on… The point to make here is that many of us, and I do mean many, use technology as their crutch or their excuse. I know I do. To not live a life that you truly want. It’s gotten so easy to be distracted by technology, and work, and emails, and Facebook, that I have to wonder to myself if we’re all really living anymore. And I think there’s a direct correlation to people’s (I don’t want to called it unhappiness, but..) uneasiness of their current situations. Many people live to work, right? Find a good job, find a career, get married, have kids, stability, savings, retirement….oh retirement, now I can pursue the things I want?? I know people say “well…that’s just life..” but I ask — “does it have to be?

Sustainable living versus the hamster wheel of life

I recently started looking into articles about people living off the grid. I know, we’ve all heard that term, and do we really understand what it means? Well, off the grid means you live a sustainable life, which means if something happened to the city water supply or electricity went down for an entire county, you’d be comfortable! I found this article about the off-the-grid guy and how he went from paying thousands and thousands of dollars every year on things like sewage, water, and electricity to paying only $300 per year in bills, that’s pretty awesome! If you want to read his story, check it out – http://www.vice.com/read/a-guy-whos-been-living-off-the-grid-for-20-years-how-i-can-live-more-sustainably

And he’s not the only one who’s done this, there have been others. And now what we’re seeing is that “living off the grid” is being banned in certain areas. That’s right, parts of Canada and the U.S. are now banning living off the grid. Which seems really crappy to me. Because if you take the guy who “lives off the grid” and see what he was paying for bills every year, and what he now pays, that’s a significant decrease. Yet people trying to be sustainable and leave a smaller carbon footprint on the earth, are being banned to do so. Why is that?

I don’t want to call it conspiracy, but we live in a hamster wheel most days. Get a job, buy a house, workCartoon business guy running on a hamster wheel to pay off that house (it’ll only take you a lifetime!), spend money to live in that house on extras like water, electricity, cable, garbage disposal, lawn treatments, repairs, and the list goes on. And this is why humans work constantly, to pay for the American dream that really doesn’t feel like a dream anymore. It feels like a trap.

So….what IS important? I guess my guess is as a good as yours. What’s important to me? I mean, when I really sit down and think about it? My relationships. With my family, my friends, the people I’ve connected with over the years. The things I’m passionate about are important to me like music and writing. The dreams I still have that I won’t let die. I’m also really interested in technology, that’s why I blog about it and work in it. But I can’t use it as a crutch anymore, it needs to be used thoughtfully and not all the time. Otherwise, I feel like my life will just pass by and the days of feeling like I’m really living will be over. I don’t want that, I don’t think anyone does.

And just to be clear, I’m not telling anyone they need to live off the grid or not be on the computer as much. What I’m saying is this… when the road ends for you and you look back on your life, what regrets will you have? What will you wish you would have done? Do that thing….NOW!!!

Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories

I am totally enthralled with the Amazon Prime original series The Man in the High Castle, it’s ah-mazing and edge-of-your-seat kinda good! Seriously, check it out. But as I sit here and watch, completely enamored with what’s about to come, it dawns on me…. I have my laptop open. How can I be enthralled when the screen I’m looking at is partially blocked by another screen with a brighter contrast (*reminder to turn down my blue light now!)?

   …Technology is everywhere…

It’s there…all the time, where ever we turn. We wake up to an alarm on our smartphone or a buzz on our FitBit. We watch the morning news on our television while we surf articles on our iPad mini. We work all day behind a laptop or a desktop connected to our peers, bosses, coworkers, and friends. We drive to destinations using our GPS, we find destinations using our voices through the advent of intelligent assistants like Siri and Cortana.  Then we “veg” in front of our TV’s watching the latest episode of House of Cards and trying to beat our Angry Birds highest score on our Androids, while stalking our friends on Facebook and Instagram. Technology just isn’t in our culture…it is our culture.

So, I started looking at how I really used technology. And the above paragraph is a pretty accurate assessment. Except, I don’t play games on my smartphone (not much of a game-goer). But technology (because I work in it) is my career, without it, I could not do my job. Could any of us? But separated from work, which we all know is hard to do, how was I using technology?

Well…let’s just say I’ve let it take my life over. I’m texting my friend from WordCamp while I’m grocery shopping. I’m checking my Facebook idled at a red light, I’m looking up “where do I know that actor from?” on my iPad while I’m watching a movie. Technology consumes me…..but I see it consume a lot of people my age. Even my mother plays her puzzle games on her iPad while watching the evening news.

And that’s only one piece of the puzzle of technology in our culture…

The other piece are the feelings, the emotions, and the perceptions. People say all the time that they don’tPeople at a bar on their cellphones let technology affect them, but that’s not true at all.  I see people bogged down with technology at restaurants, too busy intrigued by what their childhood crush is doing at that very moment online to order their food and enjoy the process of eating out with real-life friends.

I hear people say (and write) on Facebook (and other social channels) that they “won’t let other people take them down” or “they aren’t going to worry about what others think of them.” Yet I’ll see from that same person they’ve written some long diatribe that counteracts their statements, and I’m not sure they realize it. Then I’ll read the comments and I’ll see that they definitely didn’t realize it. But here I am reading this rant and these comments and the feelings are all too real. Technology affects us all and in different ways.

Facebook rant image

Let’s look at the opposite end of that. Something really cool happens and we post it online. I bought a new motorcycle and instead of just going for a ride, I take pictures of it and post it on Facebook (this, I’ve actually been guilty of). Is my excitement from getting the motorcycle and the freedom you feel when you ride it? Or is it from showing it off to my online community of “friends”? Maybe both? Not sure if I’ll ever know. We take pictures, we say words to get validation or make a point. But is that point made, or that validation received? Or is that only our perception?

Technology is the vehicle for how we drive our lives and relationships forward

It’s a place we live—online, connected, available, vulnerable. It is, truly, the way most people validate their lives now—through the lens of a blue light. We celebrate our birthday’s online, our promotions at work, our child’s first step. It’s all super important online, what our friends and our peers think about these things, and how that makes us feel. But it should be about how we actually feel about these things.

But obviously, there is a flip-side to all that, as there is in life! People are sharing more than ever online, which can be a good thing depending on the contribution. We have access to information that was never possible before. People display their art, their music, their screenplay, their creativity, their passions all online. And that can be beautiful.

But as I sit here and reread these words, I realize yet another truth, that technology’s burdens to me could be someone else’s beauty….and vice versa.

So, when you’re online, do what you feel is right. Keep it in or out. Wake up to it, or not. Be connected all day or only a small fraction of the day. The reality is that there is no way around it, it’s there and will always be now. As time continues to move forward, those of us who remember what life was like without a computer will slowly fade. And our culture will forever be connected to technology.

In the words of Laurie Anderson, “technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.”   

I wanna tell some goods ones and contribute to the culture, what do you want to tell?

What I Would Write if I Won

September 15, 2015
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Win what? TheListserve, of course! I wrote about this cool community in one of my other posts. It’s a really great community of people all over the world and the Listserve is kind of  like the lottery, only you don’t win money, you win an email – one email. And you get to email everyone on the Listserve. There’s only one rule, no links! You can tell people to google something, but you can’t add any links, which is pretty cool when you think about it. I think the total is up to 24k people, maybe more, it keeps growing. Some day I’ll win! But when you win you have a short amount of time to write this email, so I figured I’d get started on it now. What should I tell the world….or the people who read the Listserve…..which is representative of the world….so what should I tell the world?

Maybe I’ll write about the things I’ve done….

I’ve driven across the country over a dozen times. I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve loved and lost. I’ve been stranded in the Rocky mountains, I’ve raced motorcycles going over 165 mph, I used to play a mean guitar. I worked for the studios in Hollywood, I used to be able to do a kick-flip on a skateboard. I used to be tough! I would take trips to Tijuana to play the sports book in my early twenties. I used to build energy efficient houses. I used to..I was… blah!

Nah…that doesn’t do me justice!

Maybe I’ll write about the things I’m doing now….

I build strong business relationships. I can talk tech with anyone. I’m a member of the Young Leaders Circle, which is actually really cool! I can put together good-looking WordPress sites. I can code…a little. I help companies find right solutions to their web challenges. I’ve finally grown up.

But does this convey what I want the world to know? Probably not!

Maybe I should tell the world about the qualities I have…

I’m a funny guy, I can make people laugh. I am loyal, almost to a fault, but I would move the world for the people I care about. I empathize very easily, I have this innate ability to sense when people are hurting and that makes me hurt too. I’m reliable, very very reliable – I wasn’t always! I’m intuitive, I’m nice, I’m affable, I can carry on a conversation with almost anyone from the kid in the mailroom to the CEO to the homeless guy standing on the corner. I’m a people-person.  I’m pretty hip too!

But….does this encapsulate me?

Maybe I’ll write about who I am….

But honestly, who am I? I am a person, a human being, a son and brother, a loved one, probably a hated one, a lover and a fighter, honest but lies sometimes, happy but I’m sad sometimes, handsome yet I feel ugly sometimes, polite but sure can be rude, I am whatever I am whenever I want or need to be it. And this sure doesn’t paint the warmest picture of me.

But…….what do I want the world to know?

MY STORY….

But what is my story? Sometimes, I don’t even know.

I was born and raised in a blue collar New England town. I have loving parents and a great family. I was popular in school, used

GNR Logo to be athletic and play basketball, cross country running. I got into Guns N Roses when I was young and learned how to play the guitar (I eventually learned how to sing), but I knew in my bones that I was going to be a rockstar….and I failed at that. Then I moved around a lot in my early twenties – L.A., Montreal, Denver… I did a bunch of sales jobs, learned a whole lot! Then came back home, for good, 8 years later.

I got into construction, which I liked for awhile, but then needed something else, something more challenging mentally. I took a year off, moved to Boston (Dorchester, to be exact) and learn how to code under the tutelage of my sister (a kick-ass software engineer). I worked hard, lived off of close to nothing, got help from my family, and started to freelance. Then I got a job as a developer, then I came to Oomph (I love this company). I’ve found a home in the place I work and friends in my coworkers. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger and better, and we all have one common goal – to create some pretty cool shit!

But another part of me feels like I work too much. When I’m dying, will I remember the work I did? Or the people I affected? Putting all this time into work takes away from the relationships I should be making stronger. I need to find that balance, I’ve posted about this before. But it’s really important to connect with people, your friends and family, everyone in your life who’s worthy of your time.

Maybe I should give advice to the world….

I’d want people to know that it’s okay to be kind to a stranger. It’s okay to be vulnerable too. Sure, there is bad in the world and tragedy – no one escapes this, we’ve all been there. Don’t close yourself off because you’re afraid to hurt. Do whatever it is that makes you happy (as long as you’re not hurting anyone else) even if it’s weird. Weird is good. Be kind to our planet, I’m thinking it’s the only one we have for generations to come. Side note: I believe this universe is big enough to eventually find a planet that’s habitable, but we’re a long ways away from discovering that one. Hold on to the good things in your life and share whatever gift you’ve been given. If that means you’re a painter, let people see your work. If you love to play music, shout that shit from the rooftops. Creation is what humans were born to do! So go create something beautiful and be unapologetic about it.

A poem by Edgar Guest: Tomorrow

He was going to be all that a mortal should be
Tomorrow.
No one should be kinder or braver than he
Tomorrow.
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do
Tomorrow.

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
Tomorrow.
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
Tomorrow.
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say
Tomorrow.

The greatest of workers this man would have been
Tomorrow.
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
Tomorrow.
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do
Tomorrow.

Don’t be this guy!!

Maybe I’ll end my email by asking people to take action….

Go do something, TODAY! Whatever you’ve been putting off, well, get up and go do it. Your life will end (and I know that sounds morbid) and most people look back on their lives with some type of regret. I think that’s inevitable for me, but I won’t let it ruin the rest of the time I have left.
Guitar SilhouetteI had these dashing high hopes of being a rockstar when I was 17 years old. I flew out to Hollywood to make that dream happen….and I failed. Or did I? If it’s still my dream, I can make it happen, I just need to keep creating.

My story isn’t a unique one, it’s in line with all the other souls who tried to do something they loved and then ended up doing something practical instead, but it’s my life and I’m happy with it, for now.

Let’s all have hope that we can accomplish the things we want in this lifetime. And experience everything you can, it only makes you better!!!

I’m not sure, but this is probably close to the things I would say if I won the Listserve. It’ll probably always be a work in progress, though!

 

Shambhala and the Art of Being Human

August 24, 2015
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I have an internal commentary going off in my head from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed. This narrator, of sorts, is doing one of two things. It’s either replaying something in the past or anticipating something in the future. I will be at an event and try my hand at sarcasm, sometimes it comes out a little flat or just plan rude. When something like that happens, I will stew in that moment for days, sometimes weeks to come. Now, it’s not all the time that I replay this event, but at least a few times a day, I’ll revisit that moment and berate myself because of it. Other times, my ever-present inner chronicler will be forecasting some event that hasn’t happened yet to get a grasp on what I’ll say, how I’ll act, where I’ll stand, and how I’ll come across. It’s never ending. Let me repeat that – It’s never ending. EVER!

Now, I do think it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for things to come (e.g. – like a presentation, or a meeting, etc.), but don’t overplay things – which I do all the time!

My sister gave me this book, 10% Happier, by Dan Harris, one of the co-anchors of the weekend edition of Good Morning, America. Cool guy! He was a field reporter for quite a long time (still is) and had an on-air breakdown (it was an anxiety attack) where he forgot what he was supposed to say and froze. He pretty much came out unscathed, at least from a public viewpoint. But it jarred him a bit, as I’m sure it would most anybody. He was covering the “religion beat” for his work and he basically went on this journalistic journey that took him from religious sects to self-help gurus to just plan whackjobs, but he learned a tremendous amount of valuable information and started meditating in his daily life.

HALT! Did someone say mediation? Alright, I’m gonna read something else now! But if you want to stick around….continue reading….

I recently went to Shambhala training and for those of you who are unsure of what that is, it’s a form of meditation, in Buddhism. We participated in sitting meditation and walking meditation (which I thoroughly enjoyed) over the course of a 3-day weekend. Our Shastri (teacher) for the weekend guided us through a journey of self awareness and told us to care about ourselves. It’s the art of being human. Basic goodness comes from within and she related it to the first time she fell in love, or the first time she bit into a lemon, or that moment right before you shovel snow off of your driveway. It’s basic goodness, which I feel like it’s there all the time, but we really have to open our eyes to it. I know this is hard to read, but I sat with myself (just myself, no iphone, no TV, no reading a book) and tried to just “be” – it was unbelievably painful. It’s really hard to focus on your breath, and your body, your mind, and your heart. But when you let go and realize it’s ok to be with yourself and the way you feel, there’s kind of a weight that’s lifted off your shoulders. You feel alive and sad and happy and angry, one after the the other. And it’s all ok.

I realized a few things on this 3 day weekend. 1) I work too much and it’s my form of escaping from myself. 2) I can’t seem to get comfortable with being in the present moment. 3) I tend to let little things bother me (an asshole driver, the old lady taking forever in line at the grocery store, my non-punctual coworkers, etc.). 4) I need to change the way I think and feel about certain things.

In walks meditation! I’ve had a daily-ish practice for a couple of months now, and it’s going really well. I’ll set my alarm and do 15 minutes in the morning when no one is in the office and maybe 10 minutes at night when I get home. If I forget or if I’m too busy (which some would say is the very reason why you should meditate in the first place), I’ll skip it. But it’s there with me, and I have it when I need it. It’s a really cool thing to do – I challenge you to try it. Think of it like going to the gym. You go to the gym to develop your muscles, right? Maybe you’re there training for a race or just want to be in shape. Well, meditation is the same way. You exercise your mind to be in the present, in the now.

Now, just so you know, you don’t always have to be in the present to be meditating. Meditation is not (I repeat, NOT) about keeping your mind clear of any and every thought. It’s about letting your emotions and thoughts come to you, explore them (and kind of lean into them), experience the thought or the feeling, and then let it go. Because everything is fleeting, all of our moments are escaping us at all times of the day. Right now, as I write this word, that experience I just felt is gone. Accept these feelings and sit with them, it’s okay to feel, just don’t stew! Don’t stew in anything. You’ll start to find that when you lean into your feelings and experience them, it’s much easier to let them go. Hence, the end of your inner narrator. Well, maybe not that quickly. I still have my inner speaker and probably always will, but I’m getting better at calming him down!

That weekend helped me forget about my analytical mind, it helped me get in touch with myself. Have you ever spoken to yourself, I mean, really listened and asked imperative questions. Because I’ve lived probably close to half my life already. It’s time to start being happy and cherishing these moments that we get with our loved ones, family and friends. I need to focus on my relationships and not my work all the time. I need to get involved with the community. These are the things I’ll remember when I die, these are the things I’ll probably be able to take with me, wherever we go. It’s important to remember that there are good things out there for you, there are people who care, and places that you’ll connect with. It’s the art of being human.

Morning time, theListserve, Work, and Dan Rather

August 7, 2015
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As I sit here listening to alt-j (Nara is an awesome song), it’s early in the morning and I’m the only one in the office. I like this time, mostly to talk to myself about upcoming presentations or how to articulate our value a little better when I talk to prospects. But I love this time too, morning time. It’s quiet, except for the music, but it’s peaceful. There’s a calm about me and I can’t express into words the feeling that just sweeps over me sometimes, I feel connected, loved even.

I joined a community called thelistserve, it’s kinda like the lottery. But instead of winning money, you win an email, one email. And you can say whatever you want, you just can’t link to anything in the email. It goes out to the 30,000 people who are a part of this community. All the emails I’ve read from others have been extremely positive. People looking to help others, either through what they do or who they are. A personal tragedy brought to light, a haiku style rant, a plug about your company or music, it’s a really cool community. If anyone wants to be a part of a growing community, join up and maybe one day you’ll be able to send an email to all the people on the Listserve.

Balance is everything

I also wanted to touch on work (I know, I know). I haven’t posted anything in a really long time and I’m sorry, I’ve been super duper busy! It’s an ongoing battle to consistently get my work done, but still save time for myself and doing the things that I want to do. I am losing this battle, work has been winning. And maybe as I put this down on paper (or a WYSIWYG) I’ll hold myself to keeping myself in check. I need that balance, we all do. Or at the end of our lives, we’ll look back and weep for not doing the things we wanted to do. Now, I’m all for learning new things at your job/career, but you have to sprinkle in “fun” time. It’s the only way to continue to do what you/we do, and do it well.

Go do something fun, NOW!!!!

Find the time to be weird

I’m weird, super weird, and those who know me, know that. I’m human and I’m weird…..that’s okay, trust me, it is OK!! We all have our quirks, embrace them. So what if I talk to myself. People around the office know this about me and they’re cool with it. They might laugh behind my back, but that’s ok. If you like to eat peanut butter and egg salad sandwiches, eat up. If you’re a secret Rebecca Black lover, sing that shit at the top of your lungs. If you have a natural aptitude for krumping, thug out! It’s okay, seriously, we’ll like you more! Weirdness is ——- COOL

Embrace it and own it!!

___________________________________

Now for one final note, ever since I’ve been a part of the listserve, I’ve felt connected again to something bigger. I was born and raised Catholic (and yes, I’m still recovering from that), but when I was a kid I prayed all the time. To me, God was Dan Rather in a white robe standing in the clouds looking down on me, and I prayed to him. Somewhere in high school I lost my faith, did some stupid things (that teenagers do) and didn’t think about religion for years. Coming full circle, I have found my faith again, but I don’t believe in God in the traditional sense, I believe in connection to all other living things, that’s God. This is why I’m able to empathize and feel someone’s pain or suffering. This is why when a stranger is wildly laughing walking down the street, I laugh too. And why tragedies (like the recent airplane crashes) greatly affect me and my state of being, I cry because their loss, is my loss, it’s our loss, because we are all together. And that’s good, it’s great in fact, for we are here together, and for generations to come, we will always be connected to them. We feel what everyone feels and I’ve seen more and more acts of kindness and good for me not to believe there’s something bigger.

My view this morning:

It’s a cloudy day, but it’s beautiful. The possibilities today are endless for me, and for you, for us!! Let’s make today special, maybe we’ll meet each other on the train, or see each other sitting in a coffeeshop. If that happens, say hello, I won’t hesitate to ask how your special day is going. Just think, something miraculous is going to happen to YOU today, something great and wonderful and unexpected. But make sure your eyes are opened, because it can happen in the blink of an eye. Remember, if it happens to you, it happens to me and I’ll cherish that moment we share together!

Everyone, have a wonderful day, it’s only the beginning and wherever you are – there’s the entry point.