RE-POST: “How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps”

greece ios introspection reflection

Ok this is totally lazy.

But.  This morning I read this simple article (that I’m pretty sure 1.7 billion others read too…) and I thought to myself:

This. Is. So. True.

Or maybe:

Is this chick following me around?

According to Kate Bartolotta, some of the things we need to do to be happy include “stop believing your bullshit” and “stop with the crazy making.”

Bingo.

Oh and something about being “kind.”

But seriously.  I think there is so much “bullshit believing” and “crazy making” going on today, I am vouching for the fact that it’s impeding on our ability to be happy.

I’ve been hurt in the past and I’ve gone through some tough shit. I’ve also been loved a ton and a half, been successful in my professional goals, traveled across the globe, engaged in my life passions and been lucky with incredible friendships.  And yet, when it comes down to the everyday, I can often feel unlucky, closed off or just down on myself and my life.

I’m too often busy crying to my brother on the phone about how I am feeling cursed on that blessed day or deciding that EVERYTHING is terrible after someone pushed me on the bus in the morning and something didn’t sit right at work.  Sometimes we’re too engrossed in our own BS, to stop and look at the stars, as Kate suggests (below), and feel lucky for what we have and know that we’re OK.

For these reasons, I feel like the simple advice below is Awesome, which is why I’m “re-posting” this article.  You can access it HEREKate appears to know her shit.

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The covers of most men’s and women’s magazines have similar headlines: “Get Great Abs” and “Have Amazing Sex.”

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender-relevant articles thrown in) on every Men’s Health, Maxim, Cosmopolitan and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I’d bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like “Grok get flat belly. Make girl Grok moan with joy.”

And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I’ve had washboard abs (past tense) and I’ve had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person. Neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.

We chase this idea of “I will be happy when… ”

I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy — right now?

If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.

Setting aside our first-world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and WiFi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing: You are alive.

Because you are alive, everything is possible. So about those eight tips…

1. Stop believing your bullshit.

All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, childlike sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.

2. Be happy now.

Not because The Secret says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. It’s easier to look at what’s wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture — but it isn’t. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.

3. Look at the stars.

It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily — it helps.

4. Let people in.

Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed — or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half way. Go all in — it’s worth it.

5. Stop with the crazy making.

I got to a friend’s doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted, “I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head.” Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case…

6. Learn to apologize.

Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what’s up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize — without ever interjecting the word “but” — is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will need to apologize. It’s an important practice.

7. Practice gratitude.

Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she’d been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it’s that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.

8. Be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly — I am not a Vonnegut fan): “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. I can’t fix the environment or the health care system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning my dinner.

But I can be kind.

If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.

That’s a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

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Brunch: a Study in Friendship, Personal Growth and Chili

That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

I went to brunch with one of my best friends this weekend and something unexpected happened.

She pulled out a notebook and told me she was going to interview me.

It was 11am on a hung-over Saturday.

I gave her the best death stare I had.  She gave me the “yep this is happening” look.  And I gave up.

Friend was headed on a leadership retreat with her company and was given the assignment of interviewing 2 people she felt had “influenced” her.

I was pretty surprised she chose me.  And Kinda honored.  (OK really honored).

But definitely surprised.

Not because our friendship isn’t Awesome (it is) but because I had never stopped to think about the types of life-altering effects we’ve had on each other.

Best friends are not strangers that inspire you during a chance meeting or teachers, professors and superiors that you look up to.  Best friends are, in some ways, extensions of you.

And this friend in particular could very well be my right arm, since we’ve been more or less inseparable for a decade.  We met during orientation of Freshman year, lived on the same hallway, lived together Sophomore and Junior year, shared an apartment in New York City Junior summer when we were super cool and doing internships and lived together Senior year on the same floor.  Post college we moved from one apartment to another in New York City for 5 years and then casually escaped Hurricane Sandy last Halloween when we drove ourselves (in a rented minivan) to Chicago where we became grown-ups and got our own apartments (less than a mile from each other).

It’s been 10 years.  That’s more than 1/3 of my life that I’ve had this one friend by my side.  Through the coming and going of boyfriends, tragedies, births, deaths, triumphs, games of flip cup, book clubs, travels to exotic destinations, costume parties and that one time we were “guests” on the Rachael Ray show (true story).

We’ve shared clothes, experiences, laughs, hugs and tears for 10 years.

So when friend pulled out a notebook on a sunny fall day and told me I had influenced her, I was forced to put down the eggs benedict menu and give her a look that could only read “what are you talking about.”

During the next hour or so, while I devoured my much needed comfort food, friend fired a number of questions at me.  Some I’m sure she knew the answers to.  Some that brought up experiences I forgot existed, buried deep where I keep my childhood memories.  Some that brought up new topics and conclusions we had never spoken to one another.

What is your favorite trait about yourself?  My ability to connect with others.

Who has influenced you the most?  My mom had the greatest influence on me before she passed.

Name a moment that stands out as time when you recognized your own leadership skills.  When I was named a “team leader” while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain during my junior year of high school.  I had just transferred to a new high school and was feeling out of place in my environment.  Being so far away from home and in a new setting with other teenagers from around the world forced me to bring out my extroverted personality and gave me a clean slate to run with.  There was a moment that I’ll never forget, when one of the program organizers pulled me aside after an event, and told me that the spirit I had shone through and she could foresee big things for me.  I think my confidence grew twofold on that day.

How do you think you’ve influenced me?  I think we probably push each other.  I believe in surrounding myself with positive influences and support systems.  I imagine it’s similar for you.  My drive and ambitions push and inspire your own, as yours do for me.

What is one trait that you would change about yourself?  I would like to be calmer and take things in stride.  I would like to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.  Just like the quote.  I’m working on it.

It was an unexpectedly deep Saturday morning.  And definitely not your typical Friday-night-recap brunch.

Luckily, they had a Do-It-Yourself chili (It’s a thing) to which I added poached eggs, avocado, sour cream, chips, mushrooms and cilantro cream.

The chili was amazing.  So was connecting in new ways with someone you lived with for 10 years and still see almost every week.

Maybe everyone should bring a list of life questions to brunch dates?

Awesome.

That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

steve jobs book

Obviously, this is when it happens.

I meet the man who basically invented inspiration and my ability to write about it resembles a kindergartener on the first day of typing class. (But a really advanced one!)

For seven days I’ve been wrestling (physically) with writers block, trying to figure out how to put this evening into words.

I’ve been trying to relay the luck I felt to be in this right place at the right time to get some perspective during a hell week at work that included an all-nighter, a boss that thinks “this is shit” is constructive feedback and instructions to my team to redo all the work.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a sequence of words that conveys the extent to which I was nerding out during this speech about the corporate dictator/lunatic genius himself, Steve Jobs, and the things true passion can build.

After all, you don’t hear every day from the man who spent two years taking long walks and discussing Jobs’ life, the legacy he wanted to leave, his regrets, his formative years and insane stories that could only come from someone who started and saw through the very thing that lead to the iPod/iPhone/iPad situation (The situation being their existence, of course).

My eyes were glued to the stage for the entire hour-long speech.  Somehow Isaacson squeezed in what felt like Steve Jobs’ whole life story, added his own personal feelings and threw in examples of bringing in strengths from those around you as demonstrated by Benjamin Franklin and the team of leaders that wrote the United States Constitution (yep).  Isaacson addressed the meanings of “success,” both positive and negative and most importantly, the roads that lead there, the critical interactions that matter and the manner in which these leaders treated those around them.

I’m not sure how he wove these stories together, but strong messages of the entrepreneurial spirit were conveyed.  Knowing about challenges faced by those who achieved greatness gives you appreciation for your own struggles (however small they may seem in comparison).  I felt stronger.  I felt pumped. I somehow felt even more patriotic (??) than usual. (Walt, you sneaky bastard).

A week later, I am still thinking about the messages I heard and the stories that were told.

Clearly the act of conveying these messages is throwing me for a loop.  So I leave you with this.

My main takeaways:

1) Being a successful leader means surrounding yourself with talented and capable people and enabling them to do their best work.  I’m pretty sure Jobs drove 90% of the people he encountered absolutely nuts, but he was smart enough to recognize Steve Wozniak’s technical abilities and the CEO of Corning Glass’ ability to invent a new glass product that would make the iPhone what it is today.  He pushed these people out of their comfort zones because he saw their immense potential and diverse strengths.  In my opinion, this is the sign of true leadership.

2) Even those who reach great success have struggled too.  This might seem obvious, and yet it’s so reaffirming and encouraging to know that the unexpected challenges, road blocks and crossroads we meet are a normal part of the journey.  Jobs was thrown out of the very company he built, and yet, without this turn of events, he would not have found the creativity and innovation that powered the dynamic Apple synergy that exists today

3) How you treat people is important.  Word on the street is that Steve Jobs was kind of a dick.  Although he pushed those around him to greatness, he also broke them down at times.  Whether this type of demeanor is required to achieve the best results is something I’m still mauling over.  I have a feeling that the answer stems somewhere from your own personal values.  As Isaacson put it, not to give Jobs any excuses, but unless you’re planning on re-inventing the face of technology on planet earth, being “lovable” and loving others is a virtue not to shy away from.  (ie don’t be a dick).

He left us with is:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

That’s the plan, Walt.

That’s the plan.

Awesome

Note: At some point during the writer’s block process, I found myself wearing the dress I wore to an 80’s prom party a couple years ago.  TOTALLY NORMAL. The photo shoot just naturally followed.

Big Lessons come in Small Pints

sisters

I spent this weekend at home with my little sister.

She turned 13 a couple weeks ago.

Which means she’s a teenager.

So naturally – she knows EVERYTHING.

To celebrate, I surprised her at home and spent the weekend shopping, getting our nails done and swimming.

I might have been playing big sis but she was schooling me the whole time.

Here are the top things I learned over this weekend.  From my 13 year old sister.  In no particular order.

1) Boys can be dismissed if they bore you with sports stats.

True story.

She said it calmly, with a classy hand wave, as if shoo-ing the imaginary boy in front of her away.

She’s 13 and already knows that boys’ evolutionary obsession with sports stats is bound to drive you nuts.  This notion appears to be a given.  What also appears to be a given, is that you can dump them for this reason.

Whereas my twenty-something counterparts are putting on jerseys and being the cool girlfriends, lil sis and her friends are rolling their eyes and deleting their numbers from their parent-provided cell phones.

Last week she was watching her new boyfriend play baseball.  Today he is nowhere in sight.

Me: How’s Nicholas?

Lil Sis: He was boring me with sports stats.

Me: Oh.

2) Boyfriends have 3 duties. Bring you flowers, kiss you on the cheek and carry your stuff.

Holy shit.  I’m doing it wrong.

Attention women everywhere: chivalry* is not dead.  There’s an entire generation of middle school boys begging their moms to buy them flowers so they can give them to their “girlfriends.”  In return, they’ll get to kiss them on the cheek and carry their stuff.

What a revelation!

So simple!

So Cavalier!

Moving forward, it will be made clear that flowers are important. Kissing on the cheek is admissible.  As is hauling my laundry upstairs.

It’s time to revert to real courtship… the middle school way.

3) Miley Cyrus sucks

Direct quote.

I already knew this but it felt good to have it confirmed.

After her fantastic show of low moral value on stage at the VMA’s, I was thinking two things.  Why do all my favorite Disney stars turn into train wrecks?  And I hope lil sis isn’t watching this/liking this/planning on debuting new moves at her next co-ed “party.”

Luckily she’s not.

But it did make me think for a hot second about all those furious moms and dads out there whose little girls have Hannah Montana taped up all over their room.  For a moment, I understood why they were pissed that precious Hannah turned out to be kind of a slut.

When lil sis told me about her feelings regarding Miley in the car, I was pretty impressed and relieved.

Mostly relieved.

I didn’t want her to be upset.

Like Little Me is. Regarding her favorite redhead from The Parent Trap (the remake).

4) It’s the small things

I told her she could pick one big item or a few small ones at the nice mall as her present.

We went into stores she’s never shopped in and tried on clothing that cost the equivalent of my monthly apartment rent.

I figured she would be thrilled.

And she was.

By the size and décor of the fitting rooms.

The first had “the biggest pillows” she’d ever seen and a bench she wanted to lay on.  The next one was “like a bedroom” where she wanted to “hang out all day.”

I was slightly bewildered but totally uplifted by this absurdly happy child, mesmerized by fitting rooms.

In the end, all she wanted (besides candy) was “cool yoga pants.”

Which I gladly bought her.

After she hung out in the fitting room for half an hour.

sister fitting room life

5) All it takes is a little “applesauce”

Teenagers are loud and hyper creatures.

I do remember being afflicted with this loud and hyper bug.

(there’s a chance I’m still suffering).

So you’d think living under the same roof for a few days with a child that resembles a bouncy ball would be easy.

It’s not.

But it does teach you a thing or two about happiness:

You can be happy whenever.

Her new thing with her friends is picking a “happy” word that they say constantly.

This month’s gem is “applesauce.”

She texts me this word, she calls to yell it over the phone, she uses it as code for things, she drives my dad up the wall singing about applesauce all day.

I wish I could explain it to you.  Except I don’t totally get it.

All I know is that she can be having a bad practice at gymnastics and feeling down one second and then just totally uninhibited running around screaming “applesauce” the next.

My dad says “she’s just  a happy child,” which makes me think about my 13-year old uninhibited hyper days and makes me want to run around being happy for no reason at all.

Awesome.

* Note: I looked up “Chivalry.”  Wikipedia says that Chivalry is the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.  And I am totally down with this.