Spirit animals and aspirations

Hiking the Devil’s Path (an excellent trail if you like tough hikes) with a few close friends the other day, the topic of spirit animals came up.

“Hey, what would you say is your spirit animal?”

The answers from the others:

  • Peregrine falcon
  • Fox
  • Wolf / similar canine

So I was in pretty cool spirit company, if you ask me.

For me? I’ve identified for a while with big cats, specifically the jaguar.

The jaguar. Panthera onca, third largest of the big cats. Apex predator and keystone species. I rather liked all the associations with the jaguar, plus I found it amusingly fitting that even as I’m not the physically largest cat, I was still one of the five Big Cats.

We continued to hike. And I was struck suddenly by a different idea:

The spirit animal, at least in colloquial usage, has to do with the animal you most strongly identify with. Why was I identifying with a creature less than what I aspired to?

So I’ve changed my mind. As far as landbound creatures go, I identify more closely with the tiger than with the jaguar. That’s a more fitting comparison as far as where I see myself.

That feels right.

 

A shared moment when tidying

It is interesting to me that today, sorting old books with my father as we tidy a house of almost 30 years’ worth of accumulation, we have a moment of unconsciously shared intention and activity not brought about by hasty necessity.

As I accept stacks of books from him, packing them away into old cardboard Poland Spring boxes, I idly consider:

Mortality

Did he feel any nostalgia at the items we were discarding or preparing to gift or sell, attachment to things that have laid undisturbed for years, some for decades? I felt almost a vicarious imaged nostalgia on his behalf, wondering if some part of him—and all people who live an unconscious life of passive possession accumulation—accumulate “things” as an unconscious ward against the realization that upon death all possessions lose their meaning. That most of us leave the earthly plane without having much consciously affected it, and that of those few who do leave a ripple—their achievements smoothly pass from memory to legend and legend into oblivion. If that seems bleak—I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations as of late.

Integrity

Wondered at the series of circumstances and decisions that led him here: needing exterior impetus to do almost anything; slave to his emotions; his chosen inspiration a vision of a life he works at but proves hollow sporadically through action. This apparent hypocrisy is one I’ll always remember as a cautionary tale. It’s probably why I have such a strong orientation and conviction toward full congruence and internal integrity. The feeling that I absolutely must practice what I preach. Above all to live the life I want by example, to “let my life be my message”, to paraphrase my virtual mentors.

Love

Felt gratitude that despite all I’ve learned from him (and to be fair, from culture and society and those who hate themselves), I’ve still—somehow, amazingly—managed to stumble upon a better path and pursue it. By “better” I specifically mean a mindset that leads me toward fulfillment and openness and a life lived from love, rather than one from fear and constriction and insecurity. The latter is the life sadly lived—endured?—by anyone who’s been in an unhappy, unsatisfying, unfulfilling relationship of any sort. That kind of unsatisfying relationship is draining. Slow but soul-crushing, as a river weathers and erodes granite. Having been there, I had my fill and want never again to suffer it. My standard now is relationship with those already–or leaning toward–opening and living from love. Nothing less, because I’ve learned to respect myself too much for that.

I don’t doubt my past has set me up for a potentially higher degree of gains in areas that I lacked growing up. Social skills, self-love, non-neediness, unattachment, compassion, patience, confidence—the capacity for an authentic, deep and abiding love for myself, others and the world.

In the last few years as I began to open my eyes to what I really sought at heart, I began to notice that almost everything in my life from the activities I pursued to the dissatisfaction I felt was unconsciously in pursuit of fixing the part of myself that was not in touch with love. My deep and unconscious desire influenced every single thing I did—just as yours influence your life, just as the desires of bitter man and woman seep out from their wounded hearts and taint the lives around them. If you’re aware of this you’re better able to avoid corruption.

I see the idea of unconscious pursuit of hidden desires in wisdom through the ages: by James Allen in all of As a Man Thinketh:

As a man thinketh, so his heart will be.

and

The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires—and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.

By Marcus Aurelius in Meditations:

The soul becomes dyed by the color of its thoughts.

By Kamal Ravikant in Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It:

What we believe, that’s what we seek, it’s the filter we view our lives through.

and

If you had a thought once, it has no power over you. Repeat it again and again, especially with emotional intensity, feeling it, and over time, you’re creating the grooves, the mental river. Then it controls you.

And most people have heard this from Aristotle, even if they think no further than the surface meaning:

We are what we repeatedly do.

While I don’t have a stance yet on whether identity (“we are”) is tied to action repeated, I know—have come to experience—that at least my character, personality and mind are shaped by that which I’ve repeatedly done, consciously or not. As a conscious tool, this is powerful.

I felt a deep sense of peace at the realization that with my actions I move ever further from the prison of reactivity and closer toward the freedom of abundance.

Freedom from resentment, reactivity, entitlement, righteousness, indignation, toxicity, negativity, things that close us off.

Freedom from insecurity.

Insecurity: That’s the sentiment I hear nowadays when I hear people talk about their fears. I mentally replace the word “fear” with “insecurity” and in almost every case I then feel a spark of truth.

Mot juste.

In my ideal life, I am my most bold and playful self, free from insecurity and grounded in abundance and inspiration.

Ten ideas from The Wolf of Wall Street

I finally read Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street after seeing the book and the author praised by two different sources I trust. It was a fast read, as Belfort has an interesting writing voice–expressing through writing a voice inside his head that provides uncensored commentary on everything–and weaves an enthralling tale of a smart man’s rise and descent.

Here are ten ideas I extrapolate or pull from the book.

  1. Money doesn’t solve everything. Despite recognizing his own insecurities, inadequacies, addictions, flaws and problems, Jordan Belfort still needed help from those around him in order to eventually begin his road to rehabilitation. Also, despite his flaws, Jordan was still massively financially successful. This reminds me of how Ramit Sethi frequently discusses the idea that what your idea of a Rich Life looks like is specific to what you care about.
  2. You’re still the total of the five people you spend the most time around. In his story is again the reminder of how a person’s social and physical environments strongly affect them. Jordan isn’t able to stay away from drugs while he maintains ties with his old “friends”, almost all of whom were more friends of convenience. It isn’t until after he’s forced into rehab, and makes the conscious choice to change who he socializes with–going from his old drug-addict friends to his NA sponsor and wife–that his commitment to being sober holds.
  3. Money allows greater freedom to a degree. As well as leading people to do things they normally wouldn’t if you offer enough to them. But if you don’t take care of how you handle money, “you buy things you don’t want with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t even care about“, to paraphrase Fight Club. And then “the things you own eventually start to own you.
  4. Having a good mentor helps you grow faster in any endeavor. Jordan had a brief mentor in the successful broker who took him to dinner on his first day at the NYC firm–the same man who foreshadowed the destructive drug and alcohol habits Jordan would eventually adopt as he became more and more successful. Throughout the book we learn more about Jordan’s other mentors, in areas criminal and otherwise.
  5. When everyone who surrounds you depends on you for their livelihood or success, you’re not like to receive completely honest opinions and thoughts. When Jordan was fully in charge of Stratton Oakmont, all of his employees and cronies would continue enabling him as far as keeping the status quo. He surrounded himself with “yes” men who tried to live his lifestyle without having his fortune or brilliance. But without a few people who wouldn’t just acquiesce to his every desire, he would’ve destroyed himself in the end.
  6. Investing in certain areas pays off more than others. Jordan had so much money that he barely knew how to spend it, and because he didn’t seem to spend time working to heal his own inadequacies or to grow emotionally, he would spend a lot of money on tangible products in the attempt to buy his way to fulfillment–despite recognizing on some level that it wouldn’t happen.
  7. Remember your mortality but continue to practice boldness and audacity in those areas most important to you. Few people are likely to be as blessed or lucky as Jordan when it comes to all the incidents that could have killed him but didn’t. Instead of thinking that you’re “bulletproof” and invincible, make decisions that allow for long-term longevity and fulfillment while still being bold and audacious in areas that matter.
  8. You can’t escape your problems. As I read elsewhere, when you have a lot of money you end up with a different set of problems than when you have no money. So you can’t escape problems and challenges in life–but the most worthwhile change is investing the resources so that you’re equipped with the skills and faculties to conquer all obstacles without necessarily needing to throw lots of money at them. Eventually you’ll come to see that what you face on the regular are not problems but challenges and opportunities waiting for solutions.
  9. Money still opens doors. Part of its power is because of what the majority of people in our society have given it. Jordan’s huge donation to a hospital’s research department opened up a gap into a world-renowned surgeon’s otherwise months-long waiting list.
  10. True masters can have exponentially greater effect than even experts of a craft. Jordan’s favored doctor was able to at least twice work seeming medical miracles that less experienced doctors had already concluded hopeless, like resuscitating Jordan’s seemingly-brain-damaged friend Eliot and in snap-correcting a seemingly terrible diagnosis of meningitis for Jordan’s son. The applicable idea for me is to learn how to spot the true masters and learn from them as much as possible. This complements the idea I’d read some time before of how 30 minutes with a true master yields hundreds of times the benefit than hours with an expert.

Find The Wolf of Wall Street here on Amazon (link opens in new window), in your local bookstore or at your local library.

Making space for thoughts to coalesce

A light run in the half-wild suburban night does wonders to clear my head.

Ideas form and coalesce as I move. I return home with slick skin and a clearer mind.

I realized…

I am seriously drawn and attracted to smart, strong women: women who are sharp of mind, open in heart, free in spirit, playful in manner and true to their values — who won’t be controlled by me or the world around them. A pretty face or melodic voice can turn my head, but I enjoy seeing who are the few who make my mind resonate with enthusiasm.

I unknowingly lose some respect for those who delegate their decision-making power and their critical thinking, for those who could think for themselves but choose not to out of laziness.

I’m not bold and decisive (or ruthless) enough to be Gold — at least, not Peerless Scarred. Not yet. This only lightly bothers me. What I demand from myself is greater boldness and decisiveness in the pursuit of my aims, enough for me to trust myself to make mistakes as I grow.

The consistent pursuit of a big goal always leads to an interesting lesson or gain. As long as the pursuit relates to a priority, it’s usually worth following.

There may not be much evil in the world. Just people behaving in their own interests who are shaped by their environments and those around them. Hating others seems like an unfortunate emotion because it stands as a convenient excuse to blame and demonize others for living according to their own beliefs, instead of doing the hard (and probably scary) work of empathizing and understanding. Perhaps when a person takes the time to empathize and understand another, they realize just how little separates them from being like that which they did not want to understand. After all, it’s harder to hurt someone just like you.

Growth and actualization are so important to me because I want to live a deep, authentic, deliberate, freeing and fulfilling life. I can’t do that unless I lean into the edges of those areas most important to me: physical readiness, mental sharpness, ability to help and shape the world around me, romantic relationship, friendship. So I press into physical challenge enough for most others to think me a fitness enthusiast. I press into social dynamics and social skills and emotional development to become the kind of person who interacts with others naturally and charismatically.

I like the idea of top performers playing to win but not being afraid to fail.

If I am what I share

If I am what I share

I’m growth. I’m connection, warmth and love. I’m higher standards, focus, organization, strategy, adventure, good feelings, permission, independence, initiative, confidence.

Relaxation, because I’ve drawn my lines in the sand.
Community, because people fly higher when they feel like they belong.

I’m responsibility for my actions and the world around me.
I’m balance, except when it comes to the most important things in life.

Abundance over scarcity.
Curiosity over ignorance.
Education over schooling.
Discomfort over stagnation.

Inspiration, ambition, decision.

Deep appreciation for our brief, limited time and for the beauty visible everywhere.
Value: which we all have but don’t all realize, which is ours to own and ours to grow, and which is ours to share if we wish.

The decisions to care and make a difference.

when a book isn’t the same as you remember

I reread Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on a whim this weekend and discovered a richer experience than I’d remembered from previous re-readings. More significance to how the characters communicated with each other, to the choices they made and to their identities, to whom and how they loved. 

Of course it wasn’t the book that changed.

Is that idea at the base of anything we return to or repeatedly do? That it’s probably not those things or tasks that have changed, but that we have.

Edges of the Better You

The quotation from Jony Ive in Seth Godin’s recent post Not even one note describes so, so well why I don’t usually feel great about much work I do:

We did it because we cared, because when you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure. —Jony Ive

Not just seeing the heights to which others have raised their work, but getting a glimpse of how much better I could do, at the edge of my achievable possible…failing to reach that is what frustrates me.

Daily meditation

Day 1 of building up a daily meditation habit: first attempting 2 minutes after waking up.

Even though I was sitting up, I suspect that I drifted in and out of sleep, or at least in and out of a not-entirely-conscious nor mindful state, as hard as I was trying to concentrate on breathing.