Category Archives: Lifestyle

Tips and ideas for better living.

Things that don’t matter

Thirty years ago my university professor quoted a friend. “I’ll never forget this,” he said. “It’s one of the most wise things I’ve ever heard.”

Everything matters, and nothing matters.

In about 4.5 billion years, our galaxy will collide with another. They won’t actually touch—instead they’ll blend together. There’s a high chance our solar system will be ejected from this newly-merged galaxy, and will drift until it is absorbed, or destroyed, or otherwise transformed by an encounter with something else.

The good news is that our sun will have exhausted itself by then, and all of the inner planets, including Earth, will have been vaporized.

Does it matter?

The only difference between a weed and a plant is that you want one of them to die and the other to grow. Dandelions matter if you make dandelion wine.

Everyone has his own version of an emergency. We want the world to get out of our emergency’s way, and we’ll push past anyone else’s emergency to get where we’re going. An emergency is a weed, or a flower. It’s a matter of perspective.

Or it’s not.

The point is that I’ve had clients who for years have banged their heads on things that didn’t matter. They had their version of an emergency, and there they were, trying to solve riddles like How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Somehow it never occurred to them to ask “Does this really matter?”

Socrates once said that the way to overcome a fear was to fear something greater. If you have one big, overarching fear, you become a big-picture fearer. Your life gets some focus. You figure out what really truly matters, and what you most definitely want to see, and don’t want to see, happen in your life.

Problems are like friends. You have fewer than you realize. But, sure, go ahead and tell yourself you have a lot. Only, you probably don’t.

Identifying the problems that aren’t problems is a skill. Often there’s a problem behind the problem, and a problem behind that. A ten-layered onion is still only one onion. Sounds simple, but I’ve met the people who think they have ten onions.

That means 90% of their time is spent thinking about a layer of their problems and ignoring the core 10% where the one root problem is.

Maybe we should throw away our problems the way we clean out our closets. You don’t put on everything in there anyway.

How many comfortable pairs of jeans do you have? How many friends? How many problems? What really matters?

Lotteries and lattices

Photo “Lattice” courtesy of Sam Cox on Flickr

I’ve never won a lottery. Maybe that’s because I’ve never bought a ticket, ever.

The lottery is a state of mind. Many of us try to win the lottery of the mind. I have lost this kind of lottery many times.

The lottery of the mind says it all depends on the lucky break. Get it, and you’re home-free. Don’t get it, and you’re a failure.

Your book, your pitch, your project, your investment.  You look for the big lucky break. But guess what. Big lucky breaks seldom happen in life, so chances are you’re a loser. If you’re playing the lottery of the mind, you know what I’m talking about it.

Sure, some of us will win the lottery, maybe even on the first ticket. And the rest of us? We’ll need lattices.

In the absence of one life-changing event, our lives will be built of many small events.

Not one huge best-seller, or one giant breakthrough, but ten or twenty moderate successes intersecting our many other efforts.

You can build a reliable structure of lattices, but it takes time. No one, individual lathe will suffice. The truth is most people won’t even notice that you’re putting the pieces together. Not until you’ve created the total effect out of a combination and coordination of units.

Play the lottery, and you’ll likely lose every time. You’ll feel your time and energy was wasted. All you’ll see is the prize you never got, and that you’ll probably never get.

Make something of lattices, and every effort—no matter how small—will contribute to the greater end. No work will ever be wasted, and every step will be meaningful.