Be thankful for every day

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius

Make it a daily habit of taking a moment and being thankful for something. A warm bed, food on the table, family close by, technology like Facetime and WhatsApp that connects friends and family.

Remember what a privilege it is to be here. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Manage the downside

Seasoned risk takers manage the downside. When they fail, it’s never a knock out blow.

It’s like landing a plane on fumes, even if the final path to landing is a slow glide down to a makeshift runway. They pick the bailout area along the way, and if things don’t go to plan then they divert, land, refuel and regroup.

Increase your risk profile, but also increase the hedge against absolute failure. What’s your contingency plan, how do you mitigate loses? Don’t close your eyes, hit, and hope. That kind move only works in the movies.

Success is about persistence and repetition, but you can’t compete if you’ve crashed and burned along the way.

Compounded benefits

Nine women can’t make a baby in one month. It’s an overused phrase in business, but it’s still a goodie. The sentence is typically a response when someone on the project team asks if more people will accelerate the timing of the project. More doesn’t always equal faster.

Got a beach holiday planned this summer? Doing 200 sit-ups the day before you hit the beach isn’t going to get you that flat tummy. You’ll probably strain a back muscle in the process though.

Want to get a clean bill of health during your annual physical? Staying off sugar, not drinking booze and cutting back on red meat for one week before the blood test isn’t going to help your cholesterol levels.

Are you saving for retirement? Living large and waiting for a liquidity pop or a lottery ticket to play catch up when you are older is a risky move.

Some things you have to do every day. Slow and steady. Be patient and find joy in the day to day rituals. Most things in life compound over time. Start with a little bit every day, and it’ll grow over time.

Mushin

The difference between the first time you do something and the next time is incredible. Muscle memory kicks in after a couple of times. Repetition increases confidence and creativity, and it’s easier to get into the concentration flow. With enough repetition you don’t think anymore you just do. In martial arts, this mind state is called Mushin. It comes from the term mushin no shin which means the mind without mind. This flow state is possible anywhere whether it’s hiking, exercising, working, playing. Rinse and repeat.

Blue fire belly breathing

Here’s a breathing tip

Sit in lotus pose or if it’s more comfortable then kneel on the floor. Relax your body from head to toe, and slowly start belly breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose.

Imagine a small fire at the base of your belly. Every inhale of fresh oxygen fuels the flames. The exhale relaxes your tummy and lets the light expand. Inhaled fuel the fire and exhales loosen up the body. Grow the fire by inhaling until changes from yellow to orange to blue. The flame is so big now that it needs more space. Your exhales are turn blue as the heat escapes your body and fight more space around you. Keep feeding the fires and feeling you tummy becomes warmer and looser. Wind it down slowly with slower, and longer inhale. Expel the blue flame with your last exhalation. Sit and feel the warm afterglow permeate through your body.

Done.

My top 11 reads of 2017

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – This is a book you can read over an over again. It’s about how we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and live a full life.

True Grit by Charles Portis. It’s an old-school Western story. Read the book and then watch the Coen Brother’s movie after reading the book.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. If you read Sci-Fi and enjoyed Dune, then you’ll enjoy this book. It’s the first Chinese Sci-fi book I’ve read and will definitely go back for more.

A Life Worth Breathing – Max Strom. It’s a practical life guide to applying yoga and meditation to real life.

Artemis – Andy Weir. Follow up to the Martian. Old fashioned action story set on our moon.

The Dude and the Zen Master – Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. It’s a conversation between Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman on all things Zen. Maybe you’ve been too afraid to ask in the past or have been expected to know, this book covers all those kinds of questions.

Illusions by Richard Bach. I recommend reading this book every year. It’ll offer up something new every time. Gets better as I get older.

FDR by Jean Edward Smith – This is a reminder that politics has always been a contact sport in the United States. It’ll give you hope in 2018. The past is prologue.

Season of the Witch by David Talbot – Give this book to anyone who complains that San Francisco has changed too much over the last decade. The book explains how the only constant in San Francisco is that it’s changing and that’s what makes it so great.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Probably the best Western I’ve read. Epic.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe.Rob Lowe talks about growing up in Hollywood and his career. Cool stories about the West Wing and all the other kids he grew up with who went on to becomes excellent actors.

Change your self

People say they want to change things, but what they mean is that they want things to change.

If you want to learn something new, then start.

Want to learn to surf? Drive to the beach, borrow a wetsuit and a surfboard, and get wet. On some days you’ll get out of the water, and your hands will be so cold that you won’t be able to unzip your suit or hold your keys. Everyone sitting on their boards just beyond the shore break did the same thing at some point. You won’t learn by watching Instagram videos of big wave surfing. The answer is in the water.

Want to learn to write? Start writing, publish something every day. Get used to feedback, good and bad. The stuff will only start to resonate when you turn up in your writing. People can spot authenticity a mile away, and they’ll connect with you through your book.

Don’t take the act of starting something for granted. Most people give up before they even begin. If you’ve started and come back the next day, then you are in the one percent already.

If you want to change something, then you’ve got to change yourself.