Really Living…

“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.”

-Evan Esar

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The Best Birthday Gift: The Gift of Others’ Really Living Moments

(UPDATE: THIS BLOG WILL BE DECOMMISSIONED ON OCTOBER 1st: I now have a website where this blog and its history has been imported. PLEASE go to http://johnkcoyle.com and register to follow the blog there. You will have options to receive blog updates real time or a bi-weekly summary.)

I recently celebrated my birthday, and a dear friend who has been along for the Art of Really Living journey managed to give me an “event horizon” moment to remember as a gift. On Wednesday a.m. I received a FedEx package early delivery the day after my birthday and inside it contained these treasures – a typed note from my friend, and 11 hand written cards and notes from 11 girls at a camp. What’s unique about these girls is that they all suffer from forms of chronic illness and things that most of us take for granted are a constant source of challenge for them.

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I opened the box and read the note from my friend Andrea:

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John, while at camp, I was inspired to share your Manifesto with my campers.

On Wednesday night, I let them go to sleep as usual: lights out at 11 pm. I waited until all of them were asleep and then I quietly woke each of them up. I told them to put on shoes and sweats and to grab a flashlight and a blanket.

I walked them to a field, told them to lie down, and look up – the meteor shower had started. After about a half hour of quiet observation, I asked them if it was okay if I played something for them. I explained that it was something that had a profound effect on me and that I felt this environment was a perfect place in which to share it with them. And so, we listened.

I know many of them had never seen a shooting star before in their life. I also know that none of them had ever heard anything like what they had just heard. I know this because they told me so. One of my girls was moved to the point of tears.

While walking back, I asked if they’d be willing to share what they took away from the Manifesto. I explained that it was your birthday coming up and that I feel that there is no better gift to give someone than to show them how their life matters. They all enthusiastically agreed.

Some of them wrote narratives and others simply made word clouds of the things they felt represented #reallyliving while at camp. What you DON’T see contained in here is, regrettably, probably the most amazing part. We had multiple conversations about what it means to really live. For the remainder of camp they were excited to tell me how they took a risk they wouldn’t have taken before hearing your work. They were excited to tell me about things they wanted to go home and do because of your work.

On behalf of all of us, thank you. Thank you for affording us that moment to #reallylive and bond and share in that experience. Know that you made a difference in the life of 11 people who are young enough to really make great change for years to come.

I couldn’t think of a better time to tell you how important you are and how important the work you do is than on your birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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I have been working on the “manifesto” on and off for nearly a year now – first recording the vocals, then layering in music and sound effects, and now, with my partner-in-crime Michael Ziener we are layering in hundreds of images and short videos. Go to my new website and scroll down to hear the audio only version of what the girls heard:

 http://www.johnkcoyle.com/taorlblog/2015/9/1/the-best-birthday-gift-the-gift-of-others-really-living-moments

It moved me to tears that something that has been so inspired and inspiring to me could be meaningful to the girls of this camp – as young as 12 years old. So I decided to write them a note through their counselor to let them know how much it mattered.

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To the campers of camp Oasis:

Yesterday I received one of the greatest birthday gifts of my life: the considered thoughts and ruminations of fellow dwellers on this errant planet thinking deeply about what is important, and sharing those thoughts with me. I can imagine it: a dozen of you up on a hill on your backs black in the grass watching the brilliant streaks and smoke trails of meteors, simultaneously disappearing into the immensity of the universe and yet recognizing the proximity of your humanity and the bonds you have with each other.

Thank you for including me, for a moment, in your thoughts. Against the ramparts of the stars, the tides of the wind, and on a mattress of blades you included me in your world and we drew each other into possibility. I don’t know you, yet I KNOW you. You suffer, you face daunting challenges, you aren’t like everyone else. You too are shooting stars.

I answered a survey yesterday that had the following question, “I go out of my way to spare my friends and people I care about from suffering.” I didn’t know how to answer it. But now I do. My answer? “Strongly disagree.” I wouldn’t take this suffering from you, I wouldn’t steal this incredible crucible of living and learning from you. You hate it at times I’m sure, but it will design you, refine you, galvanize you, define you. Years from now others will fail to have empathy, will crumble under pressure, will struggle with crisis and you will stolidly stand firm, knowing, “I’ve been through worse.”

Burn bright my meteorites.

-JKC

A “Really Living” Moment in Time – guest post by Pauline Steinhoffer

(Guest Post by Pauline Steinhoffer)

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(2 minute read)

Last week I had a very special Really Living moment with my son, Dante, age six, in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Due to the drought, the south shore is so shallow that you can walk out 150 yards (at least) in ankle or knee-deep water. I took Dante out quite far and then told him we were going under water. He was confused because he’d been swimming all week in the pool and we’d been out on the lake paddle-boarding and kayaking, and he wasn’t sure why it was necessary to walk so far out in order to dunk ourselves in the depths of the lake.

I know from experience that summer is simply not complete without submerging oneself in an alpine lake. It’s so different from any other kind of water experience. The water is crisp and cool and invigorating and puts you fully in the moment. Nature’s baptism. The sun was setting when I went under first. I came up for air feeling completely transformed. Dante noticed immediately and he quickly went under water. He emerged with the most triumphant “YES!!” I’ve ever heard from him.

I have no idea how much time we spent out there splashing, unable to stop laughing, and sharing a pretty incredible experience together, but I will never forget it.

Where Did Summer Go? Why So Fast?

(News story idea – we have pitched to the Today show and local TV)

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(3 minute read)

The summer of 2015 will have 94 days, 2232 hours 133,920 minutes and 8,035,200 seconds. This is the exact same number of seconds as a summer when you were 8 years old. Yet, when you were a kid, summers lasted “forever.” Now, however, with 35 days left, summer is fading quickly and will disappear in a wisp of nostalgia. “Where did the time go?” you ask.

Why does time feel this way? If it is not true that summers have fewer hours and minutes and seconds, then it must be a collective error in our perceptions. Can something be done to slow, stop, and reverse this perceived acceleration of time?  Can we go back to experiencing summers as long as those when we were kids?

Horologist and “counterclockwise” specialist John K. Coyle, has some answers. “98% of adults feel this slipping away and acceleration of time, but it is just not true – it is cognitive bias – cognitive error. Therefore if a cognitive error is causing time to accelerate clockwise, what if we could manipulate our brains in a counterclockwise way and ‘unwind cognitive time’?”

John has discovered how to do exactly this. He has uncovered 3 rules that govern experiential time and that allow you to slow, expand, even ‘create’ time. According to John,  “I experience time in a way that is fundamentally different than most other adults, and is even more expansive than when I was a child.”

http://days.to/summer/2015

John will be sharing some of these ideas in his role as the lead-off keynote speaker at Chicago Ideas Week – Edison Talks (October 16th). There he will be discussing his upcoming book “Counterclockwise: Unwinding Cognitive Time”. You will never see time in quite in the same way.

FYI — John spent much of his life turning counterclockwise chasing time as a world class track cyclist and Olympic medal winning speed skater.

You Believe the “The Earth is Flat” and Don’t Even Know It…

Idea in Brief: the outdated thinking that led the world to believe the world was flat for most of human history is being repeated on a different continuum. Believing that time is linear in the way we experience it despite ample evidence to the contrary is perhaps the greatest cognitive error known to man.

(7 minute read)

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UPDATE: THIS BLOG WILL BE DECOMMISSIONED ON OCTOBER 1st: I now have a website where this blog and its history has been imported. PLEASE go to http://johnkcoyle.com and register to follow the blog there. You will have options to receive blog updates real time or a bi-weekly summary.

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The earth is flat…. Right? You say “no,” stat, because you know better than that. Because you’ve been taught that Columbus sailed the ocean blue and Magellan went around it too: mastering the complex blue fractal of earth’s winds, clouds and tides about 500 years ago proved this view to be true.

You also know and can see the obvious evidence available to your senses: the fact that the other visible celestial bodies – like the moon and Venus – transit from full circles to crescent shapes regularly, clear markings of the lighting on their surfaces prescribing a sphere. Or there’s the simple and obvious observation that, when you climb up high, you can’t see the “end of the world” and instead objects (like ships) disappear over the horizon, indicating, yet again, a curvature to the earth and hence the (now) obvious “truth” that the earth is NOT flat.

Yet…yet, until recently a majority of the world believed that the earth was flat. Until Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle began describing the earth as a sphere, no one challenged this conventional belief, and as late as the 17th century the notion had not yet penetrated mainland China. These sophisticated cultures built the pyramids and the Hagia Sophia, and invented Algebra, Trigonometry and the keystone. Yet these geniuses ignored obvious evidence, surrounding them day in and day out, and instead followed the simple, logical, yet completely farcical explanation that the earth was flat.

Right now, around the globe, all of modern culture is subscribing to the same kind of fallacy and one perhaps even more obvious. This error is pervasive at all levels, ages, regions and demographics, and its limitations on society are far more significant than those of the flat earth belief system. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, nearly every human being on the planet believes in the equivalent of “the earth is flat”. This belief is limiting exploration, creativity and the possibility of future eventualities in the exact same way – but even more dramatically. Let’s compare and contrast:

The earth is not flat
The earth is not flat
The earth is not flat

There is no such thing as linear time
There is no such thing as linear time
There is no such thing as linear time

The way we experience time is anything but linear and chronological. Hourly, daily, monthly, annually we experience seemingly odd yet natural fluctuations of experiential time. But we confabulate reasons to justify our experiences according to a view of chronological time that is the logical equivalent of the “earth is flat.”  “Wow, our kids grow up so fast.” “The summers keep getting shorter.” “Where did the years go?” “That (3 hour meeting) lasted forever.” “That (3 hour) dinner with a close friend was over in a second.” “This day lasted forever.” “This day was over in a flash.” “The days are long, but the years are short.” “Was that really a decade ago? Seems like yesterday.” “That was last week but it seems like forever ago.”

Here’s some quick facts. Our brains, which regulate our perception of time, don’t have a central clock. More accurately there are a whole bunch of clocks that regulate our cognitive perception of time. Absent corrective action our brains will start to constrict the flow of time through our brains, and like water through a garden hose, will cause the perception of time to accelerate – just like putting your thumb over the end of the hose.

But here is the good news. This is all cognitive bias – all cognitive error. Its just not true. It’s not “real” any more than the perception that the earth was flat was real. If our brains have a cognitive bias around the process of experiencing time, then we can design a way to circumnavigate this bias and slow, stop and even reverse the acceleration of time. I am proud and happy to say that my life’s mission, my passion, and every ounce of my intellectual and physical energy for the last 15 years has been devoted to doing exactly this, to going “counterclockwise” fighting time and that I’ve discovered ways to slow, stop and reverse the acceleration of time and “really live” almost forever.

I’m working on the book now – “©ounter©lockWise: Unwinding Cognitive Time” (thank you Tom Stat for the title and logo) but for now I will be posting regularly on what I’ve discovered over the past 15 years of research, exploring and experimenting with the “physics” of cognitive time. Please go to the Welcome page and subscribe to receive email updates to the blog or weekly summaries. Watch for my upcoming webinars, and join me in person for our upcoming Summit on Resiliency (September 17).

ents.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=bzfz4usab&oeidk=a07eatrgdm58dd9ace1

Have you experienced time in a way that was not linear, not chronological?  Please share it below.

How to Live Forever: John K Coyle Introduces The Art of Really Living – Videoblog

(Rough Transcript)

Hello, I’m John K. Coyle and welcome to the Art of Really Living. As you can see behind me, its possible I may have a small obsession with time (or the fancy word “horology”. Let me ask you this, compared with a summer now, how long did summers last as an 8 year old? Well I have asked that question to over 300 people and 64% of them said “forever.” So, wait, are their less seconds in a summer now than their used to be? On this site and in my ongoing research we will be exploring some big questions like this. Here’s another – “what are you best at?” are you living a life focused on your natural strengths? Do you know what they are or how to find them? Or are you living, as Thoreau says, a life ” of quiet desperation?”

Or this: Are you resilient? Do you grow from life’s natural stresses or are you becoming more fragile with each new challenge chipping away at your resolve? What can you do to become “antifragile” and get stronger to handle life’s challenges?

Finally, if the most important commodity in our lives is time, are you time starved or time saturated? I’m not talking about “time management” or getting things done, I’m asking the truly deep question of “are you killing time… or are you making time.” Are you killing time… or are you making time…?

This website, the blog, my speeches, and upcoming books will be exploring the intersection of these three challenges: strengths, resiliency, and time and how to design a life to maximize them.

I’ll end with a favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years”

The Key to Memorable “Really Living” Vacations? Fear and Suffering – Part 2: Vultures in Baja

Want to go on unforgettable, time-stopping vacations that create an indelible stamp on your memory? One guaranteed way: design in, or stumble onto some form of fear and suffering. Almost always the best and most primary memories have incidents of suffering involved that in the moment were a crisis or a struggle, but with the patina of time and under the golden gloss of memory have subsequently become the highlights of those stories you tell. The human brain is wired to identify with the hero’s journey or monomyth and each hero’s journey contains elements of stress and crisis as the center of the plot. Odds are good, your best vacation stories include some sort of challenge or crisis. Part 2: Vultures in Baja.

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As a part of any vacation I always do a search online as well as ask people who have been to the destination about “secret” spots at the locale, specifically either swimming holes, hidden beaches or dramatic overlooks that are not full of people. Back when we lived in Arizona, Baja beckoned as its vast emptiness was only a 3 hour drive from Phoenix (call to adventure) and in my research I had stumbled upon a secret swimming hole and camping spot oddly positioned dozens of miles out into the desert. It was a bartender in San Felipe, Mexico that originally told us about it in secretive tones (assistance).

A month later we drove across the Arizona – Mexico border at Yuma (departure) and immediately our senses were overwhelmed with new sights, sounds and smells. In the border town of Los Algodones the most noticeable details were the innumerable scraps of garbage flapping in the breeze and the cute barefoot children shouting for our attention as they hawked gum and tissues anytime we stopped for a streetlight.  Open air taco stands emanated blue smoke and the aromas of cilantro, onion and grilled carne asada. We exited the town to a new pattern of emanations: patches of arid desert and the dry smell of sage and dust, contrasting with blooms of humidity near stream fed cotton fields redolent of damp earth and clay. For the next 20 miles we traversed the dying entrails of the Colorado river feeding the farms serving the maquiladoras lining the border. Eventually we passed out of the farmland into the moonscape of the Baja peninsula, traversing switchbacks up into stunted outcrops of twisted rock, aprons filled with smooth white sand.

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After climbing the cordon of foothills guarding the peninsula we descended to a 100 mile stretch of dead straight tarmac across the salt flats – remnants of the tidal swings of the Sea of Cortez. Visibility was probably 50 miles in the desert air. With no other vehicles in sight, we set the convertible’s cruise control at 105mph and, watching the sun start to sink to our right over the rising ramparts of San Pedro mountains, we flew south on eagle’s wings.

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30 miles from San Felipe was the crossroads I had read about in advance – a paved road heading inland and climbing across the cordillera of the Sierra San Pedro before descending to the Pacific ocean.

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We turned right and headed inland for twenty miles before the key decision point from my research: “as the road bends north there will be a number of sand roads heading towards El Diablo – the tallest peak – choose one and just keep heading west.”

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We were in a low slung BMW, and we were worried about bogging down, but my source had assured me, “this is a salt flat – most of the way will be like a highway until the final wadis and streams near El Diablo”. We headed west on a parallel set of sand tracks. El Diablo, a 10,000 foot peak rising straight out of the sea level salt flats, grew with each passing mile. Soon we entered a 10 mile section of salt flats. To the left and right it stretched for dozens of miles but straight ahead, the “devil peak” grew ever larger and darker as the sun began to sink behind it.

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On the salt flat I let the straight six of the BMW roar and decided to see how fast we could go, hitting 110, 115, 120, 125mph before letting out the clutch and coasting towards the encroaching greenery as we entered the shadow of El Diablo.

My directions, scoured online from several sources, suggested we would skirt a horse farm before hitting the boulder strewn foothills at the base of El Diablo. There were dozens of forks in the road and we ended up circling for a while (trials) and getting nervous as the sun continued to set but after trial and error I found another fairly light set of tracks heading west and we followed them. True to the guidance, we passed a crumbling horse ranch and stable, and then finally started gaining a bit of elevation as we neared the foot of the peak (approach).

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Soon the sand lanes converged, and we entered a copse of trees in a circular space with no exit without 4 wheel drive. We had arrived. We were speechless with excitement. Above us reared a mountain that went from scorched desert to snow capped tips nearly straight up. Out of its maw was a “river” which, at this time of year, was a small trickle of a stream. As we were to discover later, in a desert with no sources of water, this trickle was a main artery for life of all sizes and kinds.

We layered ourselves with sleeping bags and pads, food and wine, and hiked 1/4 mile into the ravine where the mountain formed a cleft protecting its water source. Soon we could see it, hear it and smell it – sudden humidity in the dry desert air. Then, there it was: pools of crystal clear water flowing down from on high and heading out to dissipate in the salt and sand. We climbed onto a giant –  and I do mean giant – boulder perhaps 15 feet high, 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was smooth granite with a flat top and provided a space to sleep and light a fire. There was only one fairly difficult route onto its surface so we felt safe from predators.

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We did not bring a tent – this was part of the magic of desert camping – no rain and no dew. The air was cooling quickly but our boulder radiated the heat of the day to warm us even as the sun disappeared behind El Diablo. We sat and watched the desert and salt flats light up yellow then orange from the shade of our perch. We were safe and warm, dozens of miles from the next human being, but not, as it turns out, from other living things.

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After dark we lit a fire and made dinner. Then we stretched out on our sleeping bags on the smooth granite as our fire died. There was no moon yet. The Milky Way emerged so brightly that we noticed we were casting shadows from the stars. We watched satellite after satellite traverse the skies and then a meteor shower so bright we could see the smoke trails behind the burning meteorites in the deep black sky. We then fell asleep.

An hour or two later we met our first wet sticky thing. It was a frog. A tree frog. On my face. My fiancé screamed, “what is it….?? (trials) Oh Its a cute frog… oh, there are lots of them…” Over the next 15 minutes several hundred sticky wet green and yellow-eyed tree frogs hopped across our campsite, traversing our boulder lair in the sky to ponds or trees unknown. One of them, sadly, landed in a mostly empty wine glass and we discovered his drunken cadaver the next morning. We were later reminded of him by his red police chalk outline at home as we loaded the dishwasher.

An hour passed and then a new intrusion waking us up (trials): cattle. A whole herd. With bells on. They came to drink at the clear font at the base of our boulder and then continued their starlight trek south. They stayed, noisily, for an hour.

More sleep and then another interruption: another set of strange sounds but this time familiar: the sound of horsemen straight out of the movies. Lots of them. Now we were scared. Bandits? (trials) In the dark, 3 dozen horses suddenly appeared surrounding us at about 3 am. But there were no saddles and no riders. Just a band of wild horses there to drink. Another hour, and they clopped their way over the rocks and past us, straight up the mountain to places unknown.

We slept uneasily for a bit until my fiancé screamed again (trials). She was sitting up, eyes wide, and pointing.  With the flashlight I found the 8 inch long “stick bug” that had alighted on her arm in the dark. I was transfixed.

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She transferred him to me and I was fascinated – I had always wanted to see one of these strange creatures and here he was, just lounging on my arm looking exactly like a twig, but moving with robotic movements across my wrist. I let him go and we laid back down wondering what was next.

No more intruders woke us, and we slept well into the burning rays of the dawn until the desert sun heat started becoming uncomfortable. We rose, stretched, packed and climbed down to the car, loading everything swiftly and then driving the narrow track back past the horse farm and onto the salt flats. I was feeling cocky and let the engine roar again. We approached 100, 110 mph before an intuition caused me to slow… too late – a Wadi (creek) stretched before us and even after locking up the brakes, the BMW bounced down and then back up the cut in the salt flats at 50mph. We were thrown against our seat belts as we bottomed out, and as we emerged onto the salt flat the sound of the engine changed and the temperature gauge immediately began to rise as smoke started from the engine. I knew something was terribly wrong and stopped and jumped out of the car to witness all of the remaining motor oil in the engine block gushing out onto the dry salt. Peering underneath there was a baseball sized hole in the aluminum oil tank punched through like tin foil from a rock in the Wadi.

We grabbed our remaining water (slightly less than 1 gallon), and began walking, knowing full well that San Felipe was about 60 miles away and that the nearest paved road was about 11 miles further, and that it was 11am and already 100+ degrees. (Crisis) We walked. We talked… for a little and then got quiet. About an hour later we noticed the wake of vultures that had started circling us (real name for a group of vultures). I thought it was circumstantial, but after another hour the initial 2 or 3 became more like 15 and stayed directly overhead – it stopped being funny. I cursed them.

Our hope lay in the possibility of hitchhiking for the highway, but there was no rest from the burning sun. The heat was unbearable with absolutely no shade. We finished our water within two hours. Thoughts turned to returning to the car to wait until night or me running ahead to try to find help. We were beyond terrified that we could die out there and I was feeling guilt and terror that I might have killed us both.

Then suddenly… in the distance we saw it. Two dust devils, contrails of sand wisping vertically out on the salt flat and then, the faint sound of motors. Like a mirage, two motorbikes appeared in the distance across the salt flat out of nowhere. They sped directly toward us.

They were naturally curious as to our situation. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you walking through the desert in over 100 degree temperatures?” They asked. We shared our story empty water jug in hand. They conferred, and then shared some water, then they saddled us on their bikes, turned around and rode the 6 miles back to our car. They conferred again, and then pulled out some tubes of  “liquid metal,” mashed two packs of it together, and slid under the car. They patched the hole with the clay-like silver material and then gave us the 2 quarts of oil they were carrying. (treasure) Our relief was palpable.

“Let it cure for an hour. It should get you to San Felipe – you can get it fixed there. Here’s some more water.” Our good fortune and gratefulness was lost in their smiles and the willful adventure calling them forward – they sped off in the desert in a trail of dust. An hour later we started the car, peering under the chassis to determine that the patch was holding. It held. We drove, slowly, with only two quarts in an engine that holds six.

We drove slowly and made it to San Felipe without overheating (results) . We bought more oil and inquired about repairs. 7 days for the part they said, another day to do the repair. That wasn’t going to work, so we spent a day at the beach and an evening on the town, reveling in our good fortune.

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The following day we drove all the way home at 45mph… 7.5 hours to Phoenix on a drive that normally took 5, with a band-aid of liquid metal holding our oil pan together but made it without event (return).

Home at last we began to unpack and re-discovered the outline of the upside down drunken frog in one of our wine glasses. We marveled about that trip for years and wanted to recreate it, (new life) but our next visit found us barred by the Mexican military as the area had started to become a drug trafficking center (result). I suppose it was for the best – any return would only have diminished the magic of that starry starry night, casting shadows from the stars.

Coming June 4th: Our Second Summit – Resiliency 2.0 – Why Attend?

On June 4th we will be hosting our second (of three) Summits – this one on Resiliency. The third summit will be on the non-linear nature of experiential time. Want to know why to attend? Watch this Hollywood Squares skype video below. The audio isn’t perfect, but the message is clear:

Skype Interview with John Coyle and Dr. Daniel Friedland

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So What Does Resiliency Have to Do With “The Art of Really Living?”

(and, what is that anyway?)

WHAT: We all have had moments that were so intense, so memorable, and so full of life, that they created indentations in our memory. I describe these time-expanding experiences as moments of “really living.” The Art of Really Living (TAORL) is a movement and a philosophy to help people design and live strengths-focused resilient lives by designing powerful experiences that slow time and help you live (almost) forever.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” (Abraham Lincoln)

WHY: Because TIME is the most valuable commodity we have as human beings. Life is short, and thanks to a cognitive bias in our brains that causes our perception of time to accelerate, life is actively getting shorter. People around the globe miss their chances to expand time and “really live,” while they helplessly watch their lives accelerate and race by. They are stuck below their level of capability, trapped by stifling routines and a relentless focus on weaknesses, mired in careers noted by small risks and small rewards, and leading lives of quiet desperation. They are not really living. We want to change that and through TAORL, play the role of the chrysalis, breaking the clay of grey men, revealing the colors of the sleeping poet, painter, musician or hidden genius within.

Everyone dies. Not everyone really lives.

HOW:

By designing our lives to reverse this cognitive bias we can slow and expand the ticking of the clock which gives us back the most precious of all currencies: time.

  • S + R x T = TAORL
  • Strengths + Resiliency x Time  = The Art of Really Living
  • The Art of Really Living helps people to create these moments by:
  1. Aiding people in designing strengths-focused lives full of willpower, confidence and motivation to pursue these moments that often feature a state of “flow” and create memories
  2. Developing resiliency to weather the intensity and stresses endemic to “really living” moments
  3. Understanding the non-linear nature of experiential time and learning how to design more “really living moments” that will lead to time expansion

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So why is resiliency essential to “really living” and expanding time? The stories we remember most tend to fall into the The Heroes Journey  or “monomyth” plotline.  One essential element for all memorable plots is stress or a crisis. Increasing our resiliency allows us to withstand stress, create more stories, and persevere in pursuit of those things that “really matter.”

Want to learn more about how to increase your resiliency as a leader, parent, or partner.  Please join us for our Resiliency 2.0 Summit June 4th in Chicago. Join Dr. Daniel Friedland, MD, a pioneer in mindfulness-based and neuroscience-driven leadership development, and John K. Coyle, MBA, Professor of innovation and Olympic medalist, for a half-day workshop on how to effectively navigate stress, to cultivate resiliency, and to flourish within your life and the organizations that you serve. Follow the link for details and to register:

Resiliency 2.0 Summit

The Key to Memorable “Really Living” Vacations? Fear and Suffering

The Key to Memorable “Really Living” Vacations? Fear and Suffering

Sound counterintuitive? Perhaps. If the goal of a vacation is to eliminate all stress, then cocooning safely by the pool for hours on end with a cocktail and a book might be just the thing. But from an Art of Really Living standpoint, such vacations are like setting a torch to your most valuable commodity: time.

Do you want to go on unforgettable, time-stopping vacations that create an indelible stamp on your memory? There is one guaranteed way: design in some form of fear and suffering.

Sounds crazy? Counterintuitive? Consider this: think back to some of your most memorable vacations as a kid or even as an adult. Almost always the best and most primary memories have incidents of suffering involved that in the moment were a crisis or a struggle, but with the patina of time and under the golden gloss of memory have subsequently become the highlights of those stories you tell. The endless drives across the country with motion sickness. The time you left your sister at a gas station. Getting lost in a foreign city. The time your car overheated driving up the mountain pass. Getting arrested for skiing out of bounds.

This, then, is the key phrase, “the stories you tell.” Narratives without trial and suffering essentially have no plot – and without a plot you don’t have a story, and without a story, you won’t create meaningful memories.

Need more evidence? Consider the “Monomyth” or “Heroes’ Journey” first popularized by Joseph Cambell, which many would argue is the basis of any successful narrative. Think Star Wars, the Matrix, Avatar… virtually any blockbuster movie or novel follows this basic 11 step journey, and core to these narratives are trials, fear and crisis.

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Here’s a short video analyzing “The Matrix”

If we accept that the human brain is wired for stories, and that the heroes’ journey is the archetype of the most basic narrative pre-wired in our brains, then it follows that any adventure – particularly on vacation – that follows this narrative is bound to be remembered. A lazy-on-a-beachchair-with-a-cocktail vacation might sound like the perfect idyll, but from the perspective that “life is short and actively getting shorter,” such a vacation has no narrative. As such, it is time lost. Time wasted. A vacation you will forget.

So… how to design a truly memorable vacation? There is no direct prescription, but in a series of coming posts we will demonstrate through stories examples of “really living” vacations that slowed, expanded, or even created time.

Narrative One: An Adventure in Playa Del Carmen. 

Last year my daughter and I flew into Cancun and were whisked to a resort on the outskirts of Playa del Carmen for a conference where I was giving a keynote speech. We had a couple of days to relax prior to the event. Considering it was March, we were eager to get out to the beach the moment we arrived to the hotel. It was then that I spawned the notion, “Hey Kat – how about we walk the beach to Playa Del Carmen, get dinner in the town, and then take a cab back.” (1 – call to adventure)

Her response, “sure – how far is it?”

We asked the man at the front desk. He didn’t know, seemed confused by the question, so we just set out with a hand drawn brightly colored not-to-scale map of the coast as our guide. (2 – assistance) It was about 3:30 and the sun was still bright and warmed our skin as we began our journey. (3 – departure)

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We navigated bays and shallows, marched in each other’s footprints, investigated tidal pools and peered into ritzy resorts full of pale-skinned sun worshipers.

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As we progressed south, the beach became more rugged and the hotels disappeared. We had been walking for about an hour and a half when Kat started asking, “are we almost there?” I looked at the map. “I think so – maybe a couple more bays.” This pattern was to repeat itself several times over the coming hours.

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We were now away from any development but oddly the bays and estuaries were full of people – Mayan families with naked babies splashing in the shallows laughing, dozens of grills and campfires with blue smoke of delicious smelling grilled meats. The sun was dropping, and in the chiaroscuro light it felt like we had entered another world – one hidden from the lights of the resorts – of real people experiencing the simple joys of the sun and the sand and the waves, droplets in the air like diamonds from the splashing of the kids. At several turns we were offered food and greeted warmly, we these tall other-worldly strangers traversing their alter-world.

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Kat’s feet began to hurt about 3 hours in. (4 – trials) “Almost there” I told her as we traversed yet another bay and then rocky shoulder, lights finally appearing in the distance beckoning, but not growing any closer. (5 – approach)

It became dark, but still there were lots of people and fires and we had a flashlight we used to traverse the tricky estuaries and rock outcroppings. We were now both tired and had stopped talking, just endless tramping on the sand. We were both starving and also dehydrated having run out of water hours before. Kat was on the verge of tears I was getting very anxious -I began thinking about trying to move inland to find a cab but the dirt lanes leading to these unidentified beaches didn’t seem to lend themselves to public transport, and groups of rowdy and aggressive younger males drinking beer in pickup trucks were starting to become more prevalent. (6 – crisis)

One more bay and rocky outcrop and then, there it was, the long stretch and brilliant lights of the Playa Del Carmen main beach. We were ecstatic. We took the first side street up and entered the pedestrian zone of cobbled streets, upscale restaurants with outdoor seating, and a diverse mix of incredible people watching.

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We lost our tiredness and began fantasizing about shrimp ceviche, lobster pasta, seafood pizza, and steak tacos. (7 – treasure) Finally we settled into comfortable chairs of a gorgeous restaurant overlooking a plaza surrounded by palms and proceeded to eat and eat and eat. We were giddy.  It was 9pm – we had walked 5 hours straight, but now the reward was here, food had never tasted better. (8 – result)

When we returned to the hotel, (9 – return) we ran into our main sponsor. “How was your evening” he asked. “Great,” we said simultaneously – “we walked to Playa for dinner.”

“Walked??” He exclaimed, “Playa is 12 miles away – that must have taken…”

“5 hours – yes yes it was quite the adventure.” The concierge, overhearing said, “Wait wait, you walked to Playa – in the dark?! It is very rocky near the north side….”

Kat said, “oh it was fine – we had a flashlight.” It became a story repeated all over the complex not only by our conference group, but by the hotel employees. I could tell Kat was secretly proud, and in subsequent trips, her resilience and willingness to try new things significantly increased. (10 – new life)

Now, a year later, we remember that trip not for the fancy resort, not for the amazing meals, not for the gorgeous pools. What we remember most was the suffering / joy of the long excursion to Playa and the otherworld we entered in the gloaming of the evening where few other tourists had traversed before. Not even para-sailing (a first) was more memorable. (11 – resolution)

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A Really Living Moment: Guest Post By Ira Friedman

Sometimes moments of “really living” are grand expansive scenes and sometimes they are private moments where a series of mental tumblers fall in place. Regardless, the common thread of all “really living” moments is that they create a dent in your chronometer – a notch in the thread of time running through your brain and hence expand the sense of time spent here on earth.

Here’s a short but elegant summary from friend Ira Friedman of a “Really Moment” from his memories:

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In the 1980’s I was in charge of the paper pickers in a state park in NY. It was my job to scan the beach on a Monday morning to see where trash had to be picked up. It was a hot summer day where the temperature was supposed to reach 100º.  At 7AM I was walking the beach.  It was 78º with a wonderful breeze blowing in my face. I was wearing one of the original Walkmans and listening to Bob Seger singing “Against The Wind.” I soaked in that moment and that sensation and vowed to remember that moment so that on any given day when the weather was crappy I would call to mind that experience.  In a small way that is what i believe you are saying about “Really Living” – where memorable moments emerge in a spontaneous way that your mind latches onto.

-Ira Friedman

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