The Comfort Challenge

life begins at the end of your comfort zone quote

On my quest for having more discipline in my daily life, reducing my work hours, and having more free time, all while making MORE money, I picked up the book, “4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss. This book is supposedly a guide to how I can possibly do all of the things I really WANT to do – travel, yoga, songwriting, learn a 2nd language and learn to dance, spend time on the beach, meet awesome people, etc. – all while earning a decent living (and potentially beyond).

And the book is helping, I think, so far. I’m on the 6th Chapter of 16.

The book has helped me to design a plan, at least, for what I want to have, be, and do in 6 months time and in one year’s time. I also priced out all of these things I want to have, and be and do, so I can see how much it will all cost me. I haven’t gotten to the part where I figure out how to PAY for it all yet 😉  However, I am just now beginning to eliminate things in my life that I don’t really need to be doing, stuff that hinders my ability to do what IS productive and provides a profit. Stuff like checking my email every 5 seconds. Tweeting. No, compulsively tweeting. Re-organizing files. Re-organizing the apps on my iPhone. Checking my email, again. Checking my Facebook account 10 times a day. You get the point. Stuff that makes me feel like I’m busy and productive, when really…I’m not adding any value to my life or, more importantly, my purse.

I’m ready to move on to the 7th chapter which is “Interrupting interruption and the Art of Refusal”. But I’m stuck on the 6th chapter. Let me tell you why.

At the end of each chapter there is a little exercise, none of which have been a problem for me, though some of them are tough to think through, since it requires planning and elimination. But at the end of the 6th Chapter there is a “Comfort Challenge”.

The basis of the Comfort Challenge is to obtain two phone numbers of the opposite sex over a two day period. So, four phone numbers from four members of the opposite sex. How I go about getting the phone numbers isn’t all that important, but Tim suggests walking up to person and saying:

“Excuse me. I know this is going to sound strange, but if I don’t ask you now, I’ll be kicking myself for the rest of the day. I’m running to meet a friend [i.e., I have friends and am not a stalker], but I think you’re really cute. Could I have your phone number? I’m not a psycho – I promise. You can give me a fake one if you’re not interested.”

My first instinct, was “That sounds like fun”. Which is probably not a typical first instinct. But a few weeks ago, while I was in Asheville, NC imbibing the good life, I walked right up to a cute man in a bar, who I had been exchanging glances with for some time, and blurted out, “Hi. My name is Jami.” We hit it off from there. Soooo….easy.

It’s called “liquid courage”, my friends. Life is so simple after 2 glasses of wine and 2 or 3 beers.

But now I’m completely sober. It’s 1 pm on a Saturday afternoon and I’ve just read the end of the 6th Chapter. I’m at a cafe sitting outside enjoying a jazz band. It’s a perfect location to get out of my comfort zone. The Challenge is ON.

overcoming shyness

But as I started thinking about actually physically walking up to someone and asking for their phone number, my stomach started doing butterflies. I looked around at who I could request a phone number from. I’m not only sober, but I’m also not in a foreign town anymore where I don’t know a soul. I’m in Pittsburgh, where 90% of the time when I meet someone new and strike up a conversation we soon discover we have several mutual acquaintances. Pittsburgh is not that big.

That makes me think, “Uh, this could be weird. I don’t think I can do this”. And the butterflies are getting really anxious now.

Next thing I know, a cute boy walks in the cafe. I said to myself, well if he lands anywhere near me after he gets his latte, I’ll target him. And then he did exactly that and sat right next to me.

Shit.

So, now I need some courage. Here’s where I start texting a girlfriend, who I had discussed the “4-Hour Work Week” with the previous evening. The text exchange went something like this:

Me: “In 4 hour work week, a “comfort challenge” is to get phone #s of opposite sex. YIKES.”

Her: “Remember we kind of did something like that. We should have written a book like that.”

Me: “I don’t think I can do it sober.”

Her: “Come on. Does it say anyone or someone you have to might like?”

Me: “Anyone. Ugh. I get nauseated even thinking about it. Cute guy just sat next to me at cafe…i’m such a chicken!!!”

Her: “Do it!”

Her: “Ya got nothin to lose!”

So, while cute boy sat silently staring at the park behind me and sipping his latte, I began to memorize the above paragraph of what I should say to get his number. And then I tried to imagine myself actually doing it (which, by the way – not helpful). I thought about the old folks in front of me and how they might think it was funny to hear what I was about to say. I thought about the fact that this cute boy was probably a good 5-7 years YOUNGER than me. And then I started to imagine the boy’s face as I began to sputter out what I had just memorized. None of this was helpful. I advise against this type of precognition if you are ever up for taking the Comfort Challenge!!

And I thought to myself, “Jami. You have about 2 minutes before he gets up and leaves.”

And I sat there. For about 2 minutes.

He got up and left.

SUCH A CHICKEN. I couldn’t do it.

But it made me realize something kind of sad about myself in that I (still) heavily rely upon alcohol to get me through certain situations. It was very easy for me to walk up and introduce myself to a stranger after a few drinks, but now, clear-headed, the thought of it made me ill. I hardly ever drink anymore, but I used to use it as a crutch to socialize. In fact, I would say that it was nearly impossible for me to socialize when I was younger without alcohol.

That is not the case anymore. I own my own business. I speak in front of groups of business people and executives all the time. I should be able to walk up to someone and ask for their phone number, especially if they’re a total stranger and there is no real risk involved.

Why is it so hard for people to step outside of their comfort zone? What is the big deal? The WORST case scenario is that he would say, “I’m seeing someone right now” or “I’m not interested, but thanks.” Big deal. The only reason I would have been asking him for his number in the first place was because some stupid book told me to!

But how LIBERATED would I have felt had I been able to muster up the courage in those last two minutes. Now I just feel like a big wimp. And like I can’t move on to the next chapter, not just of the book, but of my life.

I’m not going to make any promises to myself that I can’t keep, but I will say that I am going to seriously TRY this activity again and see if I can break through these invisible and self-wrought chains. And if you have any advice on how I could get over this fear, I’d love to hear it!

 

 

 

 

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Should = Can + Like + Want

I was having lunch with a good friend of mine earlier today and we were discussing how hard it is to figure out what you want to do in life, career-wise. She has entered a new chapter of her life and has the time to try different things – volunteer, teach, administer, perform. But she’s not sure what direction to take it. I am at a point in my life where I’ve tried a LOT of different things, and still feel I have no clue what it is that I want to be when I “grow up”. We’re both in our early 30’s, at a time when most people, even if they are not completely sure of what they want to do, settle on…something.

But, one of the hardest things for me in deciding what I SHOULD do is that the things I CAN do, the things I WANT to do, and the things I LIKE to do are all very different things. They never seem to all add up for me into one perfect career. For instance, I LIKE to sing, but I CAN’T do it very well, and certainly not well enough to make a living at it. At one point in my life I thought I WANTED to teach, but I don’t ENJOY doing that as much as I thought I would. I also LIKE to play the drums, but apparently not enough to stick with it for any length of time. Same goes for playing the guitar. In all honesty, I wish I were a puppeteer. Because at least I’d be in control of something.

Instead, I have ended up doing a mishmash of things, ranging from writing grant proposals for nonprofits to marketing for small businesses and  owning my own online marketing consultancy. I don’t hate doing any of these things; I rather like doing them. But I don’t LOVE doing them. I imagine most people feel the same about their career choices, but I DO run into people who are so gung-ho about their jobs, maybe they’re acting, I don’t know, but it makes me stop and think: why don’t I have that kind of passion in my own life?

Or, maybe it’s that I’m scared of settling on ONE thing. I like to have choices. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over, though sometimes that’s the best way to get good at it. Maybe I simply haven’t figured out that magical combination yet: What I’m good at, What I like doing, and what I want to do. And then there’s also this thing called an URGE.

Until recently my urges have been very short-lived. I get REALLY excited about something for a few weeks and I get REALLY into it…and then I quit. Once I’ve had a taste of something, the flavor wears off, swallowed and gone. Been there; done that or so they say. As I’ve explained, I started this blog because I have an urge to write. And it seems to be a lasting urge. I think I’m good at writing. I’ve only ever entered two “writing contests”, if you could call them that, and I won them both. Plus, I LIKE doing it. I’ve always liked to write, but I never felt that I was all that good at it, or I didn’t really have anything significant to say. Until now.

Now I feel like there’s so many things I want to say about different topics and to piece together information and bring thoughts to life, in a way that people can connect to my words easily. Not just on this blog, but elsewhere, too. I have an URGE to do this, like I’ve never had an urge to do anything. The problem now is just to find the TIME. But where there is a will, there is a way. And now that I’ve got that urge, that will, and so far it hasn’t died out, I think this is what I SHOULD be doing.

My heart going boom, boom, boom. Yes, I’m quoting Peter Gabriel again. His song was running through my head while writing this post, which is quite appropriate. My friends would think that I’m a nut. Open doors will soon be shut.

But I digress. Let’s get back to looking at this should = can + like + want equation. I think too often people think they SHOULD do something because:

a) they *think* it’s the right thing to do, helping people, etc.

b) it’s what they thought they wanted to do when they were 19 and now it’s too late to change their mind

c) someone else thinks they should

d) other vain reasons, i.e., money, popularity, power, etc.

The truth is that any motives that don’t involve truly looking into oneself deeply (being introspective!) and doing what makes one happy, are the wrong motives, and therefore we end up doing stuff we probably shouldn’t even be doing. (albeit, it takes *some people*, like me, a looooong time to be able to see the real self and get this equation to match up.)

But we have to survive, and unfortunately many of us never get far enough on our life’s journey to reach our full potential because we’re too busy doing just that: surviving. It’s hard to breathe with your head under water. Also, we’re busy with kids/family/life and we suck up the 40 hour work week in hopes of weekends, vacations, and retirement. We all know this.

Still, when I thought about this equation, something struck a chord with me.

What I Should Be Doing = What I Can Do + What I Like To Do + What I Want To Do

This is common sense for most people, but I’ve been struggling too long with an equation that looks nothing like the above, and not only that, but it’s taken me this long to figure out each of the components of the equation that work for me. I’m still figuring it out, I guess, and maybe that’s never ending.

Also, the school of thought that says “Hey, you can do ANYTHING you want” has always appealed to me. What this means, for me, is that even if you weren’t born with a voice like Billie Holiday, you can still sing in some capacity if you work at it hard enough. I wasn’t good at math and it didn’t stop me from being a business major. I never thought I was very coordinated, but it didn’t stop me from taking drum lessons and playing and gigging in rock bands thereafter. I HATED speaking in front of people, but I overcame that by doing it over and over again and torturing myself. Now I’m fine with it.

But enough of the torture already!! All this torture because before I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about! But now I have that URGE. Finally. It makes me feel free. And all my mishaps, struggles, and detours can’t be all for not, right? Maybe all my failed music attempts might just make me a half-decent songwriter, who knows. So MAYBE I’ve been (sort of) on the right track all along? We’ll see!

It’s possible that I end up a penniless street musician. Joking, but I think it’d be fun for a few days!!

(By the way, all pictures on this post were taken in New Orleans in 2003 (I think).

 

 

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The stars and the wine and a dose of the divine.

downtown ashevilleThe following was written on Thursday, April 21 of 2011 and edited on the date posted.

Was it the wine going to my head or or the forecast of my horoscope? I’ve been thinking about some big changes; thinking about future plans. And here in this half-drunken moment, before I’ve even had a big reason to make a decision, seems to sit the answer to what I’ve been pondering for months: should I make a move?

My horoscope, read earlier today in a cafe of loud, ambient music while sipping on an iced chai, more watery than spicy, served to sum up my life, the moment, and my future in one tiny paragraph. Read in between browsing the local listings of “things to do” in Asheville, N.C., right before checking into a hostel up the street, it hit me like a surprise. Like a surprise that you’ve known was going to happen all along, but still are shocked to see come to life.

It reads:

“…I’ve rarely seen a better time than right now for you Leos to seek a cathartic rite of passage. You may even be tempted to try several. I recommend you do no more than two, however. Are you ready to break a taboo or smash an addiction? Renounce a delusion or pledge your devotion or leap to the next level?”

I’m not one to pay much heed to predictions or listen to advice coming from a horoscope in a weekly paper. But, sometimes, I do believe the stars align just so, enough to give us a glimpse of what COULD be.

Yes, I’ve been thinking of breaking some bad habits – who hasn’t? But I have also been seriously considering traveling to India to study yoga, I have been reading various religious texts and contemplating and practicing spirituality. I thought for a good portion of my 7 hour drive to the south about renouncing a delusion I’ve carried on my shoulders for over 10 years, and, yes, yes, yes, I am ready to leap to the next level, whatever that may be. I tend to believe things are a coincidence before believing they are derived from fate, or the forces of nature, or God, or whatever you want to call it. And generally, I believe that horoscopes are general blurbs of bullshit that anyone could interpret to have individualistic meaning. But no matter, whether reading my horoscope at this opportune place and time was a complete coincidence or divine intervention, the fact still remains: MY HOROSCOPE WAS SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO ME. But I may be a little drunk right now.

In the hostel I have reserved a “private pod”, essentially a bunk bed with a curtain. There is coffee and tea and it is clean and lovely and overlooks the busy Asheville streets of tourists and shoppers ambling to and fro the shops, cafes, restaurants, and music venues. I just came to town today; washed my face in the hostel bathroom, walked around town, and bought a new sweater, on sale for $32.

I returned to the French “comfort food” restaurant I had seen earlier on my walk, where I am presently imbibing my second glass of wine, and where I suddenly got the urge, the push, the comfort I needed to say to myself “I want to move to Asheville and write”. However, typically the fleeting thoughts I have while drinking wine flee from my head as soon as it clears. But then I think back to reading this horoscope earlier, and how I really do need a change and good place to think. And I feel free when I think about such things. And, no, this decision didn’t come out of thin air; I’ve been thinking about it for some time. There is a reason I’m here visiting the town for a second time, after all. And if I change my mind down the road, or if I am feeling uncertain or fearful of this decision later on, I can think back to this day, this time and place, and remember the awe I felt in this instant, realizing what could be possible when you listen to the stars and get rid of your inhibitions (with the aided help of a little alcohol).

 

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The Bible in the Buggy

the st. james bible red letter editionAs mentioned in the first post, I recently joined a writers group and we were given a topic to write about — the Bible. The following short story is what I came up with.

“Never put a drink glass down on top of a bible!” she squalled. “Don’t you have any respect for anything? The Bible is not a coaster”.

“Well, at least I didn’t put it on the coffee table, like you also told me not to do. What difference does it make? Who cares?” I heard my indifferent teenage self say.

“God cares. That’s who.” And you should have more respect for Him. It just shows a lack of respect, that’s all. When your grandmother was alive she carried the Bible with her everywhere she went. Even to the grocery store. She would lie it in the buggy and up and down the aisles people would look at her funny, but she didn’t care. She was proud to show her faith”.

“I guess she never accidentally dropped a bag of pretzels on top of The Bible in the buggy then?” Oh, the brilliant comebacks of the smart-mouthed teenager.

“No. She did not”, my Mother said, glaringly disappointed.

That conversation happened years ago, but to this day I still don’t put things on top of the Bible, even though I do not carry the same level of respect for the Bible as my mother wishes I did.

I do own a bible. It even has my name engraved on it, in gold print, and spelled correctly, too. It was given to me when I was five years old, after the passing of my grandmother, the same grandmother who carried a bible with her everywhere she went. It was my inheritance, this bible. My only inheritance from my grandmother, who must have had about 30 grandchildren at the time, all of whom received the same St. James Bible, fresh and crisp with golden trimmed edges, and a golden name engraved on the red leather cover, which arrived wrapped in a gold-painted cardboard box.

I remember the day my mother gave it me. “This is from your grandmother in heaven”, she said. “How the hell did she manage sending the bible from heaven?” my 5 year old mind must have wondered, because my mother then explained that before my grandmother died and went to heaven she made these arrangements with my Aunt Grace, who must have helped in the delivering and ordering of the bibles. Well, that makes a little more sense.

As a five year old typically does not read bibles, mine laid on my shelf, face-up, nothing ever placed on top of it, for years, I’m sure, before I ever opened those golden edged pages again.

I don’t remember when I did actually try to read the bible. Maybe I was in middle school, or maybe it was high school. I’m fairly certain I didn’t get very far, especially because everything written in the bible seemed to be in conflict with the feelings I had about the world around me at the time. A wife should obey her husband? Horse shit. What a load of crap. And that was it for my single track adolescent mind.

Indeed, it was years before I picked up my bible again. And I don’t remember ever reading it the whole way through, though I’m sure I have taken some words to heart, and, like most people, looked past the words that didn’t suit my own personal beliefs.

st. james bible gold edges

People have used the bible to suit their own beliefs and to acquire power and to motivate the masses for years – for good and for bad. Wars have been waged, prejudices deepened, and endless self-righteousness abounds from the misconstruing of its words. On the flip side, it has been used to promote charity, community, and morals that make for a strong society and solidify people for a common good. Not to mention, it has also caused people to fight for freedom. And nothing is ever wrong with freedom.

And even though I don’t make it a religious habit, I like to take my Bible out of its golden box and run my fingers over my name, inhaling the aroma only an old book can give. And maybe it’s not the words inside or where the words supposedly came from that cause me to pay heed to my mother’s instructions, but rather the idea of having respect for a physical object so many people have held sacred, especially my grandmother, who I never really knew, that causes me to (for once) listen to my mother.

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The First Post is the Hardest

I’m hoping the first post is the hardest and it will get easier from here. It’s kind of intimidating. Here I am all this time, thinking about this blog for months, buying the domain name “introspectionist.com”, ideas popping into my head on a daily basis about what I could blog about, but no time to type out my ideas. Until now. And now is sort of scary.

yellow orchidThere’s several things to think about when starting a blog. Who is going to be reading this blog? Am I going to inform my friends/family that I’m blogging here, or will that inhibit my ability to think/write freely? If I pretend that no one will ever read this blog and if I inform no one of its whereabouts, I may breathe more easy, but then why blog at all? Why type out my thoughts if I think no one will be reading them? I mean, I do have a diary. I could just as easily write all my thoughts there. I am used to the types of words written by hand and inked on paper you can touch and even cut your fingers on, but that are also tightly tucked away in a locked desk drawer for no one to ever read but me.

But these words are different. They’re alive and available for the world to see. Which is kind of the point isn’t it? I don’t want to hide all my writings because they other point of writing is to share. To share what I know and experienced and feel. And I want people to share their thoughts and opinions about the things I blog about. I think it’s called communication.

Anyway, so here you are — I am talking to YOU, a person I may or may not know and do not know if you are reading this or not.

The other intimidation with a blog is that I have no experience in sharing my personal written words with anyone really. And now it is up to me to pick blog topics! Out of my

Railroad Tracks Pittsburgh

Railroad Tracks - Pittsburgh, PA

own head?! This is a new beginning for me, strange territory, and already I am starting to feel liberated. Open space is scary, but liberating. This is where I am.

So I have to start somewhere. And I guess it would be safe to assume that no one will be reading this blog, unless they stumble upon it by chance, and in that case, they probably won’t know me, won’t care who I am anyway. But (hopefully) they will like my words, or my topics, at least. And if I ever do feel comfortable sharing with the people I do know, well, then, that’ll be my choice when it comes.

The other decision I had to make was what to name the blog. I’m not sure why the word ‘introspectionist’ popped into my head at all, but when I saw that it was available as a domain, I scooped it up. And if there was one word to describe me, I think ‘introspectionist’ is it. But, I think many people are introspectionists, at least sometimes, and that maybe somehow by delving deeper and looking inward, this blog will help us figure ourselves out. We all the ability to be introspective.

I realized this past week that I did choose a very fitting name for this blog. I recently joined a writers group and last week was the first time I ever read one of my writings in front of anyone. I was completely terrified and almost didn’t go to the meeting! I’m not typically a very open person and the story was a little personal, (but here it is anyway!) and I also felt intimidated because up until this point I’ve really had no formal training in writing other than what was required for my college degree. The other people in this writers group seem like real writers. I don’t feel like a real writer.

rainforest leaf puerto rico

A leaf in the rainforest, El Yunque, Puerto Rico

As a group we had been given a random topic to write about and I wrote a short story based upon that topic. But when it came time for me to read my little story I felt my throat get dry and tense and my heart athumpin’ faster . I didn’t want to read my story. Too scary.

But after some encouragement from the group (and a couple glasses of wine), I was able to summon up the courage to share my piece. I ended up getting through it and afterward everyone of course said their obligatory nice things, but the first thing that someone said was, “That was very introspective.” And so I knew that I picked the right name for this blog!

Another thing I had to think about was the design of this blog. I don’t want to use just random images found on the internet. I want it to be personal. And I want the design to depict the intertwining of human with nature. So, I decided to use mostly images that I have taken. I am no photographer, to be certain, but I enjoy trying to capture moments of beauty. Not all of the photos on the blog are taken by me, but a majority of them are.

Taking pictures forces me to reflect. Reflect on myself. Reflect on my surroundings. Taking notice of worldly surroundings by moving in and focusing in on a particular angle or color or object and how one relates to the light, colors, objects, makes me think, “Hey, where do I fit into all of this, and how does it all work?” And that’s what I want this blog to be about — looking closely at what makes us and the world tick, hopefully uncovering something beautiful in the process.

berries-on-tree

Frick Park, Pittsburgh, PA 2009

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