While in college I had the opportunity to listen to a acting professor from UCLA, at least I think that’s where he taught. He had written a couple of acting books and came out to lecture on his approach to the craft.
There’s not a lot that I remember about the lecture (his name, where’s he from, what he wrote), but there was one thing that stood out and made an impact. During his research he spent some time with native tribes. I can’t remember where.
I promise that the lack of details isn’t the point.
As he recalled this experience with them he talked with a certain reverence for the rituals that he participated in. It was this that he focused on.
He talked about the rituals being the purest form of theatre and having transformative power for the those involved, either watching or participating. It’s this transformation that drew me into theatre. Experiencing a deep catharsis while watching or creating that changed me as a person.
It’s this same process that I’ve loved about religious rituals. Going through wrote motions that tend to get deeper and deeper the more I performed them.
When I was studying masculinity I came across these ancient rites that tribes would perform to mark the transition from boy to man. It was something physical that was performed by the boy that signified this transition.
It was typically something difficult that pushed the limits the boy had so that the act in itself was transformational. It was this ritual that signified his coming of age into masculinity and maturity.
After that point he was given certain privileges and responsibilities. The expectation was already set and if the boy didn’t meet the expectation he would have been socially ostracized.
I have mixed feelings about that kind of social influence, but there’s no question it can be a powerful motivator.
After experiencing my own rituals and seeing the benefits I was curious about how to incorporate them into my life more regularly so that I can gain the benefits more often. Then it dawned on me that the only different between ritual and habit is the reverence and perhaps the subject matter.
There’s a lot on the internet right now about morning rituals (routines). I don’t think there’s anything religious about what I do in the morning but when I say ritual it sounds way more important than routine.
A few weeks ago I started some new morning and evening rituals and it’s made a bigger difference than I expected.
To understand the impact I want you to understand you need to know some background. Are you ready to get real personal?
Part of my new years resolutions this year is to take better care of myself. Since I was 18 the last time I went to the doctor I decided that would be a good place to start. I just went for a general check up and to check out a few specific things:
These specifics were justified. I was able to do a couple of assessments through the nutrition department here at SUU and these were the things that came up as point so concern. Because they aren’t doctors they recommended I get it checked out. It just took me three years to do it.
After mentioning these things to my dad (who is a nurse anesthetist) he told me that he has a family history of osteoporosis (both of his parents), and low hormones. It was long overdue.
Of course, the results came back negative.
As a 33 year old I have:
Here’s the thing about testosterone technically it wasn’t low. The normal range is anywhere from 280-1100 and my levels were at 411. When I mentioned this to my dad he talked to his urologist friend, and the urologist said it should be higher for my age. When I Googled it the internet said I should be at around 600.
The good news is that they are all connected so I don’t have to do a bunch of different treatments to increase all of them. Increasing my vitamin D is going to increase my vitamin C, which is going to improve my bone density and testosterone.
My main concern was testosterone. Not just because of virility, but testosterone effects everything else.
To get a better idea of how to increase my testosterone I read this:
It says there are three different ways to increase testosterone:
My diet isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. I’m not too worried about it.
I shoot to exercise 3 times a week. It doesn’t always work out that way because of work. But I’m not sedentary.
That leaves number 3, sleep. He starts this section out by saying this is last section but it’s probably the most important. If your sleep isn’t dialed in it doesn’t matter how good your diet or exercise is.
My sleep is terrible. It always has been. My dad struggles with sleep, my grandpa struggled with sleep. Bad sleep is in my genes.
It was obvious that this was my weak spot. If I wanted to improve my health I needed to figure out how to sleep. This is where my new rituals come in.
My problem with getting to sleep is that my brain let’s loose and goes a million miles an hour. I process everything while I’m trying to go to sleep. Once I start I can’t stop.
These rituals help set me up to get my mind in a place where I can relax and get the sleep I want. I’ve implemented both evening and morning rituals to start and end the day the way I want.
This has started to dial in my sleep, but it has done so much more than that. My head is clear, I am more aware, I accomplish more, I feel better. They are small things that have done wonders to my spiritual and mental health.
The process reminded me of the religious rituals I have been through. Small things done consistently over time can make huge difference. I couldn’t recommend something like this enough.
Do you have your own rituals that have made a big difference? What are they?
I have bought into just about every time management hack since the early 90’s. If I had invested the money I spent on planners instead of spending it on planners I would probably have like, $780.
Advertising did it’s job on making me believe that writing my stuff down was going to get me to accomplish more and be more organized. The same kind of belief stems from the idea that budgeting is going to take care of money problems.
I wish it were that simple.
Unfortunately, the problem lies with me not the tools. To think that the tools, like a planner and a budget, are going to correct my habits is wishful thinking.
It’s like me buying a pair of tap shoes and being able to dance. I’m not even talking about dancing like Fred Astaire or anything. I’m just talking about dancing period. (I blame Nike for making me think shoes will give me super powers).
Managing my time has to come from me not from a piece of paper. And for me I needed to understand how time worked. I don’t mean in the elementary-school-learning-how-to-tell-time way, but in how I perceive time, and how I worked within the boundaries of time.
Let me explain.
I take a long time to shower. I always have. But I’ve never timed myself. Because I’ve never timed myself I just assumed that my showers were like everyone else’s showers, in the 5-7 minute range.
It doesn’t matter how many times I wrote down shower in my planner, or how well thought out my day was, as soon as I got out of the shower I was behind. By the middle of the day I knew I couldn’t keep up and so I gave up. Resigning to the fact that I would never be able to manage my time.
Because I was told that time management had to do with a planner, and much shorter showers, I would beat myself up about the length of my showers and my failure to use a planner. As a result I tried taking shorter showers. Within a few days I was back to long showers.
To really get a handle on my time management I needed to start with where I was at and then figure out how to get where I wanted to go.
I love showers. I love the hot water. I love the isolation. I do some of my best thinking in the shower. It’s a way for the me to naturally recharge and get ready for the day (or get ready for bed). The length of my showers wasn’t going to change.
The ticket for me to understanding how to manage my time was understanding how long it takes me to do things.
Shower - 15-20 minutes (don’t judge me)
Getting dressed - 10 minutes
Breakfast - 25 minutes
Getting to work - 7 minutes
Getting through email - 1 hour
Writing a blog post - 35 minutes
Walking the dog - 20 minutes
Gym - 90 minutes
You get the idea. I started to breakdown my tasks so that I could understand how long I took to do things. The real hard part about this was not judging the time it takes me. I still hold some trauma from fifth grade about not being the first complete the math test.
An hour workout should only take me an hour, right? Except that I am relatively new to the gym, and it’s a new workout, which means it might take me 6 weeks to figure out the right weights I should be lifting. Eventually I could get to an hour, but it takes time and practice. There’s no room for judgment.
After understanding this I thought I had it made. But I was still running into problems with fitting everything I had written down on my schedule.
Then I listened to Essentialism.
Greg Mckeown talks about this concept called buffering. Buffering is like contingency time that you give yourself in case things happen. Things will always happen.
The way he explained it to his kids was through an imaginary game. The rules to the game were they needed to get to a certain place in the car by a certain time, but they couldn’t use the brakes (stop time).
As he talked through this experiment with his kids they quickly realized that the key to success was the space between their car and the car in front of them. This space would give them ample opportunity to slow down or speed up in response to the traffic.
This was the next step in me understanding time.
Not everything is going to go according to plan. Inevitably I will get a phone call, have to meet with a student, my daughter will throw up, the dog will see another dog and freak out.
Something will always put a wrench in the system I’ve created. The trick for me is knowing this before hand, loosening my expectation of what wanted to get done, and scheduling in buffer time.
Now, just to be sure, I still struggle with time and getting everything I want done. A lot of that has to do with focus and preparation and not on managing my time.
How do you manage your time? When are you the mort productive?
I have spent most of my life making assumptions. Most of those assumptions have been wrong, thank goodness. But I didn’t always think that was a good thing.
I used to be pissed that my assumptions weren’t right. Like the world owed me.
Sometimes my assumptions contradict themselves. None of them logically made any sense, but my assumptions aren’t made on thinking through something well enough to come to a rational decision. No. I fly by the seat of my pants, making split second decisions based on how I feel at any given moment.
One of the assumptions I’ve had for as long as I can remember is that other people are smarter than me, and have there crap together more than I do. I wrote about that assumption here. The contradiction to that assumption is that most of my assumptions are wrong.
That assumption is no exception.
It’s not that I am brilliant beyond reason or that no one compares to my intellect, it’s more that I never gave myself enough credit. When I get the opportunity to talk to someone who is really good at what they do, and we start to dive deep into insecurities, and assumptions, and we get real vulnerable….the light turns on.
We’re all in the same boat.
I used think of progress as vertical. There was this ladder that I was on and I was either progressing up or moving back. Since the light has turned on more than once I’ve changed my mind.
Instead I think we’re all on the same level, just in different spots. No one is better than anyone else; we’re all just in different places. It’s not a matter of moving up and down, to meet someone else’s standard of where they think I ought to be. It’s about me getting to the right spot that works for me.
The thing I loved about Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty grabbing the wrong envelope and committing to whatever came out of their mouth is that it shows them as fallible human beings. The only difference between them and me is they have different talents and different opportunities. But, they put their pants on one leg at a time too.
One of the concepts that I have been working through is the idea of accepting where I’m at and who I am. Looking at that lateral plane that we’re all on, throwing out the assumptions I have about myself and just observing where I’m at.
If I can accept where I’m at on that line then I can start to make movements to where I want to be. When I can see what’s really in front of me, as apposed to what I think is in front of me, then I can do something about it.
When I was struggling in my marriage for the first time (relationships will always be hard) it blindsided me. I assumed that I was doing everything I needed to do in order to have a healthy and happy marriage. The deeper that I got into the why and what was going on the more I saw through the facade that I was creating.
My marriage wasn’t working because I wasn’t willing to be honest with myself about what I needed and what the relationship needed.
Since making that discovery things have gotten better, but the necessary changes never would have happened had I not opened my eyes to the real situation.
Thank you Faye and Warren (we’re on first name basis).
Until I find the truths that resonate for me I will keep trying truths out. Discovering who I am in the process.
Truth should be straight forward, but it’s not. It is like that time I told my mom I didn’t kiss that girl in my first grade class. She kissed me. Truth isn’t black and white.
It’s not true when someone tells me they could never get up on stage and do improv. Anyone can get up and do improv. Most people do improv everyday they just don’t know it.
What that improv-less person is referring to is a very specific set of parameters. They can’t get up on stage now and produce the kind of improv it takes 10 years to develop. That’s true. But they didn’t say that.
What would have been more accurate is,
“I don’t want to put in the time and energy over the next few years developing my improv craft so that I can get up at any point and perform improv like a professional.”
I am assuming that’s what they implied.
Looking at truth this way only scratches the surface of personal truth. That’s the truth that isn’t so black and white. It’s this truth that is scary to look at because it’s me getting a glimpse of what I don’t like about myself.
I listened to a podcast with Seth Godin a long time ago. There was one part of the interview that has stood out. Seth Godin has written a lot of books [link]. Naturally, the interviewer asked about his writing process and habits.
Seth Godin responded with “It doesn’t matter.” His process and habits are his, they allow him to do the work that he wants to accomplish.
I could copy his way of doing things but then it’s only copying. It’s not really my thing. It’s not really my truth. The resulting work wouldn’t be authentic.
It doesn’t matter that Set Godin was talking about writing. It’s the process that’s important. That’s the trick to everything. Figuring out the way that things work for me. That is my truth.
Discovering truth is hard as hell. My guess is that’s why most people don’t do it. Mind you that’s a huge assumption that is based on where I’m at and what I’m doing. I just figure that I am the average. And I’m lost.
Uncovering the process for how I do things takes a long time and is something I don’t always enjoy. I hate seeing the mistakes that I make that result in frustration and nothing to show.
When I wanted to focus on living healthier I stole from a lot of people. I did a lot of research on diets, and exercise and what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the day I just had to experiment with a lot of different things and what ended up sticking was a Frankenstein mash-up of everything I learned.
As long as it’s working who the freak cares?
When I get results I feel that way, but when I don’t I doubt myself. I start to think if it worked for someone else why can’t it work for me? There must be something wrong with me. The whole time I’m trying to live someone else’s truth. There’s nothing wrong with me its just part of the process.
Because I’m human, and a man, I like it when things have a label and are easy to understand. To justify this whole self-doubting process I have decided that I’m a borrower. I borrow other people’s truths, like training wheels, until I can get my own footing and figure out how I do things.
I think it’s the concept that is the foundation for the phrase:
I don’t expect to figure everything out. There’s a lot that I’ve stolen that works just fine. I appreciate those who came before me that gave me the opportunity to steal their work and stand on their shoulders.