How Is This the Best Thing That’s Happened to Me?

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kenny sandals maple ridge 5k 2022 tulsa, ok

One of the last cool spring breezes of the year rolled over the historic neighborhood as folks of every age, shape, and goal-set pinned race number bibs to their shirts, stretched out legs, and bounced around in anticipation of the starting gun. Scanning the crowd for familiar faces, I spotted my Rabbi, his family, and many others from my synagogue. Minutes before the starting gun, I swam through the crowd of runners over to give my “good luck!” wishes and perhaps run alongside a few friends. 

“I didn’t know you were a runner!” My Rabbi exclaimed, seeing me behind the starting line in my runner’s duds for the first time.

“Well, as of just the last couple of months. It’s a funny little story.” 

“You’ll have to tell me sometime,” he said looking at his watch before looking back up, “or, just now.” 

My eyes shot towards the bill of my cap as I processed the short version of the story.

“I used to jump rope on my backyard deck every morning. During Sukkot this fall, however, the best spot for our sukkah was where I would usually jump rope. So, instead of jumping rope, I went for runs in the nearby park that week. I ended up really enjoying running and, thus, why I’m here.” (Don’t worry, I’ll explain what on earth this means.)

“So, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot made you a runner?” 

“I guess you could say that.” 

I could see the Rabbi-wheels turning behind his eyes, pondering how the tale could be leveraged for the sake of Judaism.

As I wrapped up my short story, the starting gun went off. 

We wished each good luck and I ran across the line. The cluster of runners became a long stream as their varying speeds stretched out the shape of the formation. 

Putting one foot in front of another, I started to realize how what was originally perceived as an inconvenience led to what is now one of my favorite activities—one that has reshaped my relationship with my body, mind, and community. 

And it was true; a Jewish holiday had made me a runner. 

For many years, I had grown to enjoy jump rope. The activity was not only a great way to kickstart my day but had resulted in nearly 40 pounds of weight loss. My favorite place to jump rope was a section of a wooden deck in my backyard—just the right amount of give. However, this section of the deck was also the best place in my backyard for the construction of what is called a “sukkah.” Huh? Don’t worry—I’ll explain.

Every year, immediately after the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), there is a week-long holiday called Sukkot (“sue-coat”)—the Festival of Booths. The “booths” reference the temporary dwellings that the Israelites lived in while traveling through the desert for 40 years. To commemorate this time, Jewish people erect temporary dwellings and host an array of festivities within. Our synagogue builds a sukkah on-site nearly the size of our sanctuary. My family does as well—erecting a 6×8 foot screened-in room with a roof made of bamboo thatch in our backyard. My non-Jewish friends just call mine “Ken’s Jewish Party Hut” and come over to clink a few pint glasses, eat some tasty grub, and enjoy the last of the temperate fall weather before winter forces us inside. 

There was only one problem—my sukkah took my jump rope spot. Jumping rope on my concrete driveway was too firm and attempting to jump rope on another section of the deck presented the possibility of hitting low-hanging utility wires. Just greeeat. 

It only took a few days of Sukkot before I started getting the itch to break a sweat. Leaving my jump rope behind, I headed off to a nearby park to attempt to scratch the itch with a walk. After a kilometer lap or so, it was clear that simply walking wasn’t going to cut it. So, I decided to pick up the pace and run. 

After running a kilometer lap, my heart was racing and my lungs were looking for air wherever it could be found. It felt great. Though my cardiovascular system was grinning, my legs, knees, and hips were not. Being clueless about proper technique, I had forced them to carry me around the track—pounding my lower extremities against the pavement. 

My quest to figure out how to run properly took me through a whirlwind of technique tutorials far exceeding the week of Sukkot. I dove headfirst into any books and videos I could find on the subject, including:  

It didn’t take long before I was fairly obsessed. I went from pushing myself to 5k (or 3.1-mile) distances at slower paces (well over 11 minutes per mile) to breaking a 12-mile distance barrier and finally being able to run a mile in under 8 minutes.

More than fitness, running became a practice—as important for my mind as much as my body. Figuring out how to improve or seeing what my body can accomplish feels like gradually working on a huge puzzle with little boosts of encouragement every time a new piece falls into place.

Even though I could ramble on and on about what I think about while I’m putting in miles (absolutely nothing, refreshingly enough) and what drives me to put one foot in front of another, my favorite fictional runner already summarized this in the 1994 film Forrest Gump,

 “I just felt like running.”  

But the events that eventually led to my love of running originally came from a much darker place: cancer. 

In 2017, I was diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer—an experience that forever changed my relationship with my own body. After bouts of health anxiety in the wake of such treatment and surveillance, I started jumping rope. Thus, my cancer inspired me to seek fitness as a means of preserving my mind and body. If you poke around online, you’re likely to find hundreds of such stories of folks, who, after staring death in the face, went on to change their lives for the better.

Though I had successfully transformed what was the worst thing that could have happened to one of the best things, it wasn’t until about a week ago that I realized this—as well as how much time and pain I could have avoided if I’d had such foresight instead of this hindsight.

But wishing for foresight makes about as much sense as wishing for a crystal ball. What we can do is ask ourselves one question: How could this situation actually be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me? 

This practice was first introduced to me through a YouTube video called “8 Habits that Changed My Life” by the creator Struthless. I remember watching this video on my couch while nursing a case of metatarsalgia (inflammation of the forefoot) that kept me from running. The host mentioned a mental exercise he had taken on—simply, when faced with a difficult situation, instead of getting frustrated, asking one’s self, “How is this the best thing that’s ever happened to me?”

What was a frustrated pity party with a side of an itch to run became wondering…how is this the best thing that’s ever happened to me? 

In this instance, I realized that my metatarsaliga was a symptom of a larger problem—my running form. I was landing on my forefoot with too much force. I used my downtime to figure out how to remedy the problem and how to distribute force across my entire foot. After doing so, I ran my fastest mile ever about a week later—even faster than I was before my injury. 

While helpful, I feel like my piddly instance of going from a sore foot to breaking a personal record is just at the lower tier of how this mental exercise can be utilized. What if I had asked myself, “How is this the best thing that’s ever happened to me?” when I received my cancer diagnosis? Then, maybe I could have avoided a year or two of anxiety and hopped into fitness even sooner. I have no idea. 

I feel that this mental exercise can change or even save someone’s life.

Instead of spiraling into deep depression or anxiety, someone can ask this question and begin to see a way out of despair. 

Instead of seeing adversity as a speed bump, they can ask this question and use such an instance as, instead, a launch ramp. 

Instead of letting a setback ruin your day, you can ask this question, reframe your vision of a problem, and pivot toward personal success. 

Instead of seeing an event as the last shoe to drop, you can see it as the starting gun to wake you from procrastinating your own betterment. 

How is what is going wrong in your life actually the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you? How can you make it so?

kenny sandals tulsa 5k maple ridge memorial day run

Becoming Besties With Death

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We all have differing relationships with Death. Some have come face to face with it on battlefields, city streets, or ICUs. Some scroll right past it like an advertisement on a social media timeline. Most of us are aware of Death but are afraid to look it in the eye.

It feels odd to say, but Death has become a close friend. I invite Death along with me throughout my happiest moments—in the mornings over coffee, when my son gives me a big hug, seeing my wife’s warm smile, or when I go out for runs. I have gotten to the point where I actually want Death there with me. Don’t worry—it’s not as dark as it sounds.

And it wasn’t always this way. 

I’m pretty sure I was introduced to Death when my grandfather died a week or so before the first day of sixth grade. Despite being raised with the afterlife-believing theology that comes with a religious upbringing, the mystery of Death was suddenly terrifying. No one could tell me precisely what happens the moment after I would take my last breath. The lack of answers kept my breathing shallow and my eyes deeply acquainted with the contours of my bedroom ceiling. Despite this, like most of my fears, I leaned into it—even, for a time, considering becoming a mortician. Eh, too much school. 

After receiving news that my first marriage was going to end, I realized that worst-case scenarios were, in fact, possible. I buried my emotions about the divorce in order to cope. This resulted in me becoming a hypochondriac. I believe that this made my death anxiety resurface. I was certain that every odd physical sensation was a malady that would flip over my mortal hourglass—like such a scene from the Wizard of Oz. I knew that it was only a matter of time before an odd symptom would lead to a doctor’s visit that would then result in bad news.

Then one did. 

A few years into my blissful second marriage, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Despite an early detection that allowed for a virtual cure thanks to one out-patient surgery, I would still have to undergo regular scans to ensure that the cancer had not spread. Every year, I’d get the “all clear,” and go about my life for another 11 months. One month out, when the next scan was scheduled, my emotional burners would ignite beneath my guts. Just as my anxiety would begin to boil, another “all clear” would swiftly cut the burner off once again. 

Then, one Sunday afternoon, I befriended Death. At a playground.  

With the place to ourselves, I chased my three-year-old son up ladders and down slides. Through wood chips and sand. Jumping, running, swinging, and laughing. As he continued to expend his virtually endless energy stores on climbing and sliding, I sauntered over to some nearby swings to take a load off. As I let a tailwind rock me back and forth, I savored the tired sensation of chasing a toddler up and down the grounds. With a joyful sigh, I felt the presence of someone approach and take a seat in the swing next to mine. I didn’t have to look over to see that it was none other than Death. 

Death wasn’t there to take me. No, he was simply there to show me what mattered. 

The silver clouds reflected a handful of straw-like rays to the east. The ecstatic cluck of my son’s laughter echoed off the nearby treeline. The air in my nostrils carried notes of a recent spring rain as it filled my chest and then flowed out again over the top of my graying mustache. For a few moments, the entire world was free of buzzing notifications, jealous gossip, the frantic compulsion to keep up appearances, and gripping one’s own biases like a bull rider behind the gate. As Death rested its bones on the swing beside mine, he wiped away these diversions like blemishes from a lens—if for just a moment.

I know that, somewhere, my mortal hourglass is hissing with the trickle of sand from one chamber to the other. There’s no way to invert such a device, tighten its waist, or thicken the material within. To make matters worse, our petty squabbles, unfounded anxieties, and insincere motivations only work to scoop handfuls of sand out of the top halves of our mortal hourglasses. 

Most of us look to the upper chamber of our hourglass—filled with worry and expectation about what is hiding in the sand. If we’re not gazing at the top of the funnel, we’re frantically sifting through the particulate that has already fallen through to the bottom. We’re desperate to hold good times up to the light or bury the painful particles we unearth. 

Where should we be looking? The only place that matters—where the dust falls.  

As the air kisses the falling grains, this is where our attention should be—hovering between chambers. Only here, with the tremor of the device, can we change its travel through time and space. And while the top of the hourglass contains an unknown matter(s) and the bottom holds inaccessible sand, what falls between the chambers is the golden powder of life. The only time we can observe this golden powder fully illuminated by the setting sun is in free-fall in the waist of the hourglass—after it has left the above chamber of the Future and before it lands in the chamber of the Past in the belly of the vessel. 

You’re not going to die. No, you are currently dying. Like mine, your hourglass is hissing with the falling sands of time. The sand below represents every day given to Death. The sands above contain materials you cannot access. Instead of filling you with dread, this realization should infuse the present with vitality. It should compel you to stop squandering your time on pursuits of hollow vanity, insincere gestures, or needless self-inflicted anxieties. 

Your relationship with Death while alive should not be one of paralysis but instead a motivational friendship. Death doesn’t come around to frighten, but to inspire. Death is not something to run away from, but to run with every mile of your life. In the parlance of the youth of the early 21st century, to invigorate your daily life with clarity, purpose, and richness, Death should be your “bestie.” 

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”


“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

-Marcus Aurelius

How to Design Your Inner Role Models

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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inner role models
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Are you living up to your potential? 

Before fleshing out article ideas, I like to bounce many of them off of my wife—the Queen of Honest Feedback When Requested. She’s especially honest if you catch her while she’s cooking—that perfect balance of distracted yet receptive.

I looked up to see her closely monitoring some tofu cooking in a skillet on the stove.

“Can I ask you a completely non-rhetorical question?” 

“Sure. What’s up?” 

“Would you say that you’re living up to your potentia—”


“Wow, you didn’t even have to think about it.” 

As our laughter over her gunslinger-fast response settled, I was relieved to see that (a) my question had landed properly and (b) that this wasn’t a realization that crushed her spirit.

There’s a decent chance that you share my wife’s feelings about living up to your potential—and my own. Am I living up to my potential? Hell no. But, what would help me begin to move in that direction? In my experience, small daily nudges from a role model that understood me. 

External Role Models: The Good and the Bad

If you need a motivational pick-me-up, there are entire industries dedicated to such a service. From cheerleading personal trainers to power thinkers whose wisdom seems to ooze from their lips like honey off toast, the wellsprings of inspiration are brimming with influencers. 

And what can I say—I’ve been known to fanboy. I keep a rotating carousel of influencers in my consumption orbit—each with their “niche-itch” that they scratch. Maybe some — 

  • Beau Miles for exploring physical and mental space
  • Simone Giertz, Tom Sachs, and Van Neistat for resourceful creativity
  • Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton for naturalist running advice
  • Rabbi Nachman of Breslov for spiritual wisdom
  • Augustus Pablo and J Dilla for music production
  • Rabbi Dr. Benjy Epstein for some spiritual mindfulness
  • Ryan Holiday for relevant stoicism
  • Patrick Rhone, Alan Watts, and Ram Dass for contentment philosophy
  • And many others

And while I lean on them for advice during my various pursuits, there are downsides to such role models. 

A. I don’t know them. 

While I would love to be personally mentored by any of these individuals, this is simply out of my grasp. And I wouldn’t want to bug them anyway. 

B. They don’t know me. 

While some of the people have acknowledged my existence via a comment reply or even an email, most of these people don’t know I exist. In fact, several of my role models on this list are…(wait for it)…dead! Like, super dead. Rabbi Nachman has been dead for over 200 years. 

Because I don’t know them, they don’t know me, and some are pushing up daisies, there’s no way they could ever provide guidance tailored to helping me live up to my potential. 

But I do know who knows me. 


You probably know you pretty well, too. 

Build Your Own Targets, Then Take Aim

Unless you’re in medical school or are currently on a trajectory to qualify for an Olympic team, most of us don’t know what our “achieved” potential would even look like. This lack of envisioning gives our potential no target. For this reason, it may be helpful to design your own inner role models. 

What is an inner role model? 

An inner role model is simply a characterization of your realized potential. To put it in another way, do you remember when your guidance counselor asked you, “Where would you like to see yourself in five years?” An inner role model is that version of yourself that stuck with your plan. But wait, what’s the plan? 

Extended Metric-Based Goals Suck

This may be a controversial opinion, but goals are overrated. Sure, they’re great for daily to-do lists, but they’re not great for building lasting personal development. What do I mean by this? Let’s explore with a quick example. 

Let’s say you have a goal to lose a certain amount of weight. Good for you! You start up a new diet and exercise program. Before long, you’re seeing the numbers roll back on the scale and your clothes are becoming looser. After months or even years of hard work and dedication, you’ve finally hit your goal weight. Congrats! But now what? 

While you may have chosen a sensible, sustainable route to weight loss, if you achieved your goal with a fad diet and an extreme exercise program, your wins will likely not last. Diets that feel restrictive take the joy out of eating. Extreme exercise can lead to burnout or injury. Metric-based goals have a hard endpoint before we’re forced into maintenance mode, which feels less like remaining svelt more like being chased down the street by your fatter self. 

So, if we’re not chasing a goal, what should we chase? An identity. 

Choose Your New You

In James Clear’s bestselling book Atomic Habits, he discusses how identity change is an incredibly helpful tool for habit change. He uses the example of someone who wants to quit smoking. When offered a cigarette, one could refuse it on the basis that they are trying to stop smoking. This person still sees themself as a smoker. A more powerful mindset is to refuse a cigarette on the grounds that they don’t smoke. This person has chosen to take on a new identity: a non-smoker. Non-smokers, by definition, do not smoke, thus making smoking not an option. 

There’s no goal to pursue— simply the process of choosing a new identity and then becoming acclimated to said identity. These new identities are a part of living up to your potential by being your own inner role model—in their case, the non-smoker. 

Designing Your Various Inner Role Models

If you were to seek out help living up to your full potential, there’s likely no single person that would be equipped to assist with every sphere of development. You are a multi-faceted person and your desired growth likely spans lifestyle categories. You may want to grow professionally, physically, spiritually, artistically, socially, and beyond. Each of these segments of your development would require hiring a different consultant—a different role model. 

For this reason, it is helpful to design an inner role model for each category of development—a different version of you that has reached or is in the process of reaching your potential in one mode of being. 

First, let’s explore where you can begin working towards living up to your potential and then design the inner role model that will help you on your journey toward this new identity. Let’s start with a five-year period.

Where would you like to be in five years? 

  • In what state would you prefer your romantic, parental, familial, or social relationships to be in five years? 
  • What would you like your relationship with physical fitness to look like in five years?
  • What levels of focus and peace would you like to experience in five years? 
  • Where would you like to be spiritually in five years? 
  • Where would you like to be professionally or financially in five years?
  • Etc. 

Now, what kind of person would you have to be to achieve these conditions and maintain them far beyond five years? These are your inner role models. 

Crafting Your Inner Role Models

When crafting your inner role models, it is important to remember that these personas are you. They share your motivations and your fears. Unlike you, though, these are versions of you that have persevered and have achieved the identity as a version of you that lives up to your potential. They are the non-smoker, the caring sister, the artist, the professional, the runner, the architect—while all being you. 

As an example for this piece, I will use an inner role model I have been in the process of developing to help me with my physical fitness and mindfulness movement—Kenny Sandals. 

Naming Your Inner Role Models

While the name you choose for this inner role model for yourself is not incredibly important, a name is a helpful handle to hold onto when you need to consult this identity. I chose “Kenny Sandals” because this role model is a free-spirited runner. Kenny Sandals runs in a natural way, usually in running huarache sandals. The name doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. 

Choose a Sustainable Motivation

Why are you wanting to develop this side of yourself? Your inner role model’s motivation is the continued fuel in their tank. For Kenny Sandals, his motivation is experiencing as many hours of runner’s high as possible. 

While I could have said that Kenny Sandals wants to complete a marathon, this wouldn’t have been the best fuel in his tank. 

  • He may end up taking shortcuts to complete a horrible marathon.
  • He may overtrain and injure himself.
  • He may obsess over metrics and forget to have fun.
  • He may complete the marathon and then completely evaporate. 

However, because his goal is achieving the most amount of runner’s high, this ensures that other conditions must be met. 

  • His form needs to be smooth and prevent injury. 
  • His nutrition needs to support his running.
  • He needs to manage his weight so he can continue to run better.
  • While he will need to push himself to run miles through rough patches and run when he doesn’t feel up to it, he needs to remember to keep a cheerful outlook or the runner’s high may never arrive.

Choose Their Pet Peeves

Your inner role models need to be annoyed by distractions from their motivations. These pet peeves should begin to shape your own behavior. These annoyances act as a pebble in their shoe—forcing them (and you) to course correct when you’re beginning to lose sight of their motivations. Let’s look at Kenny Sandals’ pet peeves. 

  • He doesn’t like losing sleep—preferring sensible bedtimes and sleep-promoting behaviors.
  • He doesn’t like excessive junk food, sugar, or other substances that make running less enjoyable. 
  • He doesn’t like unnatural cushy footwear that messes with his running form and results in sore knees that hinder his ability to run.
  • He doesn’t like dwelling on negativity—instead, using bad experiences as learning tools. 
  • He doesn’t like being cooped up inside and not able to be active.
  • While he likes the occasional brewski (especially after a run), he doesn’t like excessive drinking because of how it impacts later running.
  • Oddly enough, he doesn’t like competition—unless it’s very friendly and lighthearted. He’s already competing with himself as much as it is.
  • He avoids whiners, complainers, and overall negativity wherever he can.

Describe Your Inner Role Models

Your inner role models are your supportive friends. Because they are your friends, you should be able to identify them. This exercise also helps them seem more real to you. 

Take a few moments to write a detailed description of each of your inner role models as you design them. Write what their day looks like, how they behave, what they look like, and how they would respond to certain situations. 

For Example: 

Part myth, part legend, Kenny Sandals is all about LSD—yep, long slow distance. He is a free spirit who loves exploring his world on two barely-sandaled feet. He carries an unflappable smile and doesn’t care what others think about him. He wanders down roads, shoulders, trails, sidewalks, and paths all over town like a grinning quick-footed wizard or gnome—long beard flapping in the breeze, toes exposed to the sky—usually donning a trucker cap, cheap shorts, a random t-shirt, the least amount of footwear. He waves to most people he passes and nobody ever knows where he’s headed. He’ll run the occasional race or pub crawl, but usually just for the sense of community. And you better believe he’s always game for a post-run beer, but he usually has to earn it first.

What Would (Insert Inner Role Model Name Here) Do? 

Now that this inner role model has begun to take shape, it is time to channel them to work towards achieving your potential in their facet of your life. When planning your day, consult your inner role models to see what they would do. Let them guide your daily habits, your diet, your personal interactions, and the like. If you have designed them with the proper motivations and pet peeves, they should guide your day in a sustainable way that meshes with what you truly want out of life. 

Once a month, make a date with your inner role model to make sure you’re living up to their motivations and not the motivations of others—even if those are misguided motivations you find yourself drawn toward—such as unhealthy habits, vanity metrics, acclaim from others, and the like. Make sure you’re not placing pebbles in the shoes of our inner role models and realign your daily activities to scratch their itches.

Revisit Your Inner Role Models

Though remaining tethered to a revolving carousel of inner role models is a great way to start living up to your potential, you may find that your motivations change over time. For this reason, every quarter or six months, reevaluate if your inner role models’ motivations still truly match your own or at are appropriately actionable levels. There’s no shame in adjusting the intensity of your inner role model’s motivations if you’re simply unable to live up to their standards. Still, this should only be done for the sake of creating forward momentum. While motivations may change, make sure that your new motivations aren’t simply surrendering to apathy. 

Inner Role Models Accountability

You may choose to form your inner role models with friends. Sharing your inner role models with friends is a great way to create accountability. In this way, you can check with each other to see how happy or annoyed their inner role models are. 

I’d love to meet your inner role models at and hear if you’re keeping them happy. Feel free to ask me how Kenny Sandals is doing. 

If you read this far, you’d probably like to receive articles and podcast episodes like this as they’re released. You can do so by subscribing to my email newsletter. Unsubscribe anytime you like—I won’t take it personally. 🙂

6 Reasons to Make Analog Journaling a Part of Your Life (Read or Listen)

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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analog journaling

I’ve always been a journaler.

As a kid, I feverishly filled spiral notebooks with everything from weird sci-fi to Shel Silverstein-esque poetry to undelivered letters to crushes—and usually when I was supposed to be doing something else. As I got older and computers became a larger part of life, I’ve usually kept some form of a digital journal—either using mobile journaling applications or word processors. 

And while the experience of journaling digitally has been deeply therapeutic, the tech has come with ample downsides. A moment of insight could be derailed by judgemental spellcheck. Backspace makes it too easy to second guess an idea and leave it unexplored. 

I began to feel a draw to the various other distractions that resided within the same device I was simultaneously trying to escape with a good journaling session. This is usually a losing battle.

 Around the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, I picked up a dot-style Moleskine notebook and some pens just to see what would happen. 

The result? Just one month and 98 pages later, I’m kicking myself for not trying this sooner. 

Why? I could give you 98 reasons. Instead, I’ll give you six.

Before I do that, let me clarify what I mean by “analog journaling.”

I consider analog journaling the simple practice of regularly documenting various content on a paper, non-electronic page, such as:

  • Capturing ideas
  • Taking down necessary notes
  • Dumping out your head 
  • Documenting life’s stories
  • Tracking personal habits
  • Creating systems
  • Virtually any function where it could be deemed a helpful idea to open the release valve on your thoughts or feelings

I don’t subscribe to any particular journaling style—such as bullet journaling (though morning pages seem to be pretty much the same thing)—but I will occasionally borrow heavily from them as they seem helpful. 

Ok, ok—enough with the introduction and onto the reasons why I’d recommend keeping an analog journal. 

Reason 1. Analog journaling gives you an escape from screens (and novelty). 

Whether we’re scrolling down the infinity pool of content on our hand-held screens, accessing work-related content on our desktop screens, or shuffling through the endless program choices on our wall-mounted screens, we are inundated with screens. 

And now for something that seems off topic but it will make sense. 

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I used to smoke cigarettes. 

Though I eventually switched to vaping, I was still hopelessly addicted to nicotine—despite hating how it made me feel.  My pulse would become erratic, digestion a bit off, but the worst aspect was simply the craving sensation that reminded me that I was addicted. Any time away from my vaping device or between refills, I would crave nicotine to the point of even bumming drags or cigarettes from friends. 

After a while, I decided to quit for good. That was several years ago and my cravings for the device vanished, thank God…until craving a device returned.

No, not a vaping device—for a scrolling device. A screen. 

Was I looking for any specific information? No, just novelty—something entertaining or interesting that didn’t require much mental bandwidth. I was essentially yanking the handle on the slot machine of Gmail, YouTube, or Google News in hopes of shiny, easily consumable content. 

 The answer? Well, not through empty electronic calories. Instead, I’ve sought fulfillment from internal sources rather than external electronic novelty—everything from physical fitness to creative endeavors such as creating music and writing. This is where analog journaling really shines—no screen pun intended

Instead of the slot-machine-like-dopamine-triggering effects of glowing screens, analog journaling strips away the novelty of external stimuli and forces us to look within for meaningful entertainment. 

But that sounds pretty boring.”

Yes, analog journaling takes some getting used to—even in comparison to digital journaling. But I challenge you to sit down in a quiet space with nothing but a blank page, a pen, and your mind, and experience how thoroughly and satisfyingly entertaining it can be. 

Reason 2. Analog journaling requires you to go within. 

Journaling in general is a deeply introspective experience—requiring you to drill down into the aquifer of your psyche and pump out the ideas that spill onto the page—a concept I’m borrowing from Van Neistat’s video about running

Analog journaling, however, creates additional friction on the pathway to distraction—especially if you turn off all nearby screens and leave your “hand screen” in another room. Digital journaling comes with an army of distracting novelty gremlins calling out to you from the same device in your hand that you would use to usually consume them. 

Because of this higher barrier to digital distraction, analog journaling makes it easier to drill deeper into our minds to access thoughts, emotions, ideas, and solutions that normally wouldn’t stand a chance against exterior distractions. 

Reason 3. Analog journaling requires you to slow down. 

It seems that every service, every device, and feature are designed with convenience at their core. The words “value” and “convenience” have become synonyms. 

While infinite convenience at every turn seems mighty swell, I’ve personally found that such abundant ease reduces the meaning in my daily tasks. Like an underworked muscle, if everything is convenient, easy, and quick, my day just seems to wash right past me in a quick blur where no single endeavor stands out.

We’ve all become obsessed with saving time without much thought to how we end up spending it.

Analog journaling, on the other hand, is immensely valuable while not being very convenient at all—and that’s a good thing.

This deliberate inconvenience, albeit slight, carries over to other activities. Since picking up an analog journaling practice, I’ve found myself leaving my phone at home when I go out running, leaving my phone in the other room while reading, or simply enjoying the physics, slowness, and textures involved in brewing my morning coffee in a french press sans phone.

In an instant-download, “Prime delivery,” K-cup culture, intentional slowness seems to enrich common activities with meaning and renewed enjoyment.

Reason 4. Analog journaling provides a much-needed (missing) tactile experience. 

Outside of journaling, I rarely write by hand anymore. I’m a “writer” by trade, but I’m actually more accurately a “typer.” Bank cards, Venmo, and PayPal have replaced the need to write or sign checks. Even most of the legal documents I’ve had to interact with leading up to the purchase of a house (easily the largest transaction of my life) have been completely digital and were signed by clicking an agreement button. 

The physical act of writing or crafting something by hand is becoming a bygone activity. And that should be terrifying.

Analog journaling allows us to rebuild our lost tactile world—the mind-body connections that typing, tapping, and swiping can’t replace. 

  • The feeling of the pen across the texture of the page. 
  • The care required in writing each letter so I can read what the hell I just wrote. 
  • Consciously remembering to steer clear of freshly written words until the ink has dried. 
  • The consequence of not properly internally articulating a concept before putting it in ink so I don’t have to scribble it out—though my journal remains about 15% scratched-out words

All of the experiences culminate in a gratifying tactile experience—almost a return to analog craftsmanship that we’ve nearly lost. 

Reason 5. Analog journaling allows for unlimited formatting potential for the avid journaler. 

One of my biggest beefs with word processors is the ease of formatting—or rather the lack thereof. While any graphic designer or web developer could likely format a digital space beyond my imagination, I simply want this functionality on the fly. 

  • Sometimes, I want to write simple sentences in straight lines. 
  • Sometimes, I want to create a table to track how many miles I’ve run that week. 
  • Sometimes, I want to write why I like dub reggae music and what it makes me feel while I listen to it, but using the words to fill in the outline of the beard of a fictitious character I doodled.

Analog journaling allows for the quick composition of mind maps, Venn diagrams, customized headings, and cyborg dinosaurs wherever you want them. For example:

analog journal doodle

Reason 6. Analog journaling is a superb method of chronicling and archiving eras and experiences. 

Though most of us will never have biographies written about us, there is a high likelihood of instances in which knowledge of our lives or mental states will be sought after—either by future generations, but most likely by ourselves. This being said, writing for a future audience of one or even zero is not time wasted. 

“But isn’t digital information protected better against aging than paper?” 

Technically speaking, probably.

With that being said, my mother still has a box full of my elementary school and middle school spirals in her basement—accessible anytime I want them. Unlike the availability of this information, years of my junior high blog posts on Xanga and digital writing pre-Google-Drive are gone forever—lost to the perceived disposable nature of hardware and content distribution platforms. 

And while those spiral notebooks won’t last tens of thousands of years, they have the potential to last a few hundred years or longer—more than long enough for anyone with the faintest memory of my existence to dive deeper into my internal dialogue during any stage of life in which I was keeping a journal. 

For example, my grandmother is well into her 90’s and her mental facilities aren’t quite what they once were. Despite this, because she kept an analog journal for decades, future generations will have a firsthand perspective of her life as well as what life was like for someone throughout the 20th and early 21st century. All we’ll have to do is open one of the dozens of journals she’ll leave behind and turn to any one of the thousands of dated entries. 

Her daughter, my mother, was even telling me about a letter she had uncovered that she had written to her mother. She had written this letter when I was in elementary school. It outlined everything she was experiencing during a particular week. As she told me about the contents of the letter, the details allowed me to time travel to that week. I even helped her fill in details with my third-grade perspective. 

So, do I think anyone will want to read my analog journal entries hundreds of years from now? Eh, probably not. But at least I’ll be able to randomly crack open one of my journals, read its contents, and think, “Remember when we used to pray for what we now take for granted?

Thinking about keeping an analog journal? Here are a few tips to help enrich your experience.

Tip 1. The right journal can make or break your journaling experience. 

When shopping for a journal, choose a page layout that is conducive to how you intend to journal. 

  • For those who only plan to write words, a lined journal likely makes the most sense. 
  • For visually artistic folks, you may opt for completely blank pages. 
  • For people like who are me in the middle between writer and doodler—a dotted page layout is a great choice. Dotted pages are somewhat like graphing paper, but with only the dotted intersections and not the lines on the page.  These pages allow for the use of the illusion of lines when needed or line-free expanses when they’re not.

Ideal Cover & Size

I’d recommend a hardback journal to a soft-backed journal for easier lap writing. 

Also, keep the size comfortably medium—not so big that it is unwieldy, but not so small that writing inside it is cramped and difficult. 

Use Page Numbers and a Table of Contents

Keep page numbers and a table of contents in your journal. There are several journals that come with page numbers as well as a blank table of contents. If your journal of choice doesn’t include them, they’re easy enough to write in yourself. But it’s up to you to maintain them.

I personally recommend doing so for the sake of quick referencing later. Include the date and a summary title of what you wrote about. 

Tip 2. Not sure what to write about that? Write about that.

Possibly over half of your journaling experiences will begin with you having no clue what to write about. That’s fine—simply start by writing about that. It’ll soon go somewhere after you blow out some mental cobwebs.

Remember that this is nothing more than a conversation with yourself. It doesn’t have to make sense. You don’t have to pull any punches. You can leap from topic to topic at a moment’s notice. Let go of all expectations and enjoy the process of putting ink on the page.

Tip 3. Spend time every day with your journal—which is really just time with yourself.

The idea of making an appointment with your journal can feel like homework. In actuality, it’s more like therapy. It is time to check in with yourself, what you’re celebrating, how you’re stuck, or just maintaining your self-preservation systems so loose ends don’t dominate your thoughts.

Batch Journaling With Stuff You Already Do

Regular journaling may seem like a tall order. The momentum to get started can seem overwhelming. However, it’s easier to get into the rhythm of spending time with the page if you batch the activity with something you already do.

Perhaps immediately after you hit the “brew” button on your coffee in the morning or start your dishwasher after dinner, settle into your journal for a few minutes. 

Consider Journaling a Break From Your Phone

Before you start journaling, turn off all other screens and leave your phone in the next room. If you’re afraid you’ll be too distracted by not having your phone for that long, you definitely need to leave it in the next room. While uncomfortable at first, the experience will become a relief. 

I look forward to you looking forward to those quiet, constructive, purposefully inconvenient journaling sessions with nothing but your journal, a pen, and your thoughts.

And yes, this entire piece was first composed in my analog journal.

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Running On Cruise Control

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running on cruise control

About two months ago, I began running. It just felt like it was about time. 

As of composing this piece, I’ve run 118.7 miles in those almost exactly two months. 

My feet have taken me alongside rivers, over highways, and away from an extremely territorial Maltese. 

They’ve taken me by neighborhoods with handsome multi-level mansions. 

They’ve taken me past burned-out shacks, abandoned, and likely occupied by the homeless. 

The promise of a novel view of the various corners of my city from atop tenderized soles, occasionally numb toes, burning calves, creaking knees, tired hips, hungry lungs, and—yes—the periodically chaffed nipple—is one of the few things that I’ve found to successfully get my stiff feet onto the cold floor of my bedroom at 6 AM. 

Ok—maybe more like 6:30. 

The sensation I experience is akin to the first week of receiving your driver’s license. Even if you were able to get a ride anywhere before, you’re now free to go travel wherever you want on your own steam. The world looks different from behind the wheel of your own vehicle as you travel on your way. 

Getting even a fraction of that distance into my world simply on my own two legs conjures a similar feeling and perspective on scenes I take for granted—like receiving court-side seats for my surroundings rather than up in the nosebleeds in the form of an automobile. 

Running past, the reciprocated nods and passing “g’mornings” between labored breaths to fellow pedestrians grounds me among my fellow villagers. More than neighbors, we share the kinship of being fellow bi-peds—experiencing our community one step at a time.

By a different token, opened-palm waves to drivers are rarely returned. For at least half, their gaze is usually directed illegally downward into mobile device screens as they fly past. 

One of the most unique sensations crept up recently—one that made me feel confident in my ability to claim my identity as a runner. This was the instance where I forgot that I was running. 

Instead of being keenly cognizant of each foot strike and the perpetual need to fill my lungs with new air, as I ran, I grew pleasantly detached from myself and began to experience my passing surroundings like a passenger in a motorcycle sidecar. 

I observed the wind swirling freshly relinquished leaves. My eyes followed the lines of the stylized graffiti that had been sprayed on the sides of rusty warehouses. I welcomed lofty office buildings on the horizon as they seemed as though they were rising higher from the pavement the nearer I came to their bases.

This is not a state I believe I’ve ever attained while simply walking or even riding a bicycle. The strenuous nature of running combined with the freeing simplicity of foot travel makes this state possible. I have no doubt that my brain chemistry is being manipulated to make this sensation so—but I’ll gladly take it. 

The more miles I put on my soles, the easier it has become the engage my anatomical cruise control and take in the scenery—not just the sights, smells, and sounds, but also the textures. For the first time, I have favorite city streets based on how they feel as they make contact with the soles of my feet. I’ve grown keenly attuned to the topography of my own side of town—experiencing hills I hadn’t noticed while driving up and down them in a car. My perspective of the place I call home is enhanced to reveal vibrant detail because I am  experiencing it in a way I never had before—on foot. 

If on your next morning drive you see a long-bearded cinnamon-and-sugar ginger in a NASA trucker cap and loud red rubber moccasins running by, consider looking up from your phone to wave hello. I’ll likely wave back and grunt out a “mornin’” between labored breaths.

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How to Make Chores Suck Less

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I’ll make this piece short because the concept, while is meaningful, is incredibly simple. It was somewhat brought to mind during a stand-up spot from 2013  by one of my favorite comedians—Rory Scovel.  

“The older you get, the more you realize—life is just chores. That’s all it is. In fact, the day you officially become an adult is the day you accept, ‘…this is only chores.’ It doesn’t matter how well you do them, how fast you do them—they’re coming back tomorrow, they’re coming back the next day, they’re coming back next week. And some people are like, ‘…—I thought there was more to life than this.’ There is. There’s a medicine that you can take that makes you think that every chore you have to do is a…video game that you get to live inside of.”

While his bit was touching at how ridiculous the marijuana laws of the United States were in 2013, his reframing brought to mind a type of reframing for our lives that doesn’t quite require getting high, but rather by changing one word in our typical thought patterns: 

Simply replace “have to” with “get to.” 

  • I have to get the mail.
  • I have to go for a run. 
  • I have to take a shower.
  • I have to go to the grocery store. 
  • I have to cook dinner. 
  • I have to work.
  • I have to drive home.

Let’s see what happens when we replace that single word. 

  • I get to get the mail.
  • I get to go for a run. 
  • I get to take a shower.
  • I get to go to the grocery store. 
  • I get to cook dinner. 
  • I get to go to work.
  • I get to drive home.

The truth behind this shift is that most of us take many of these tasks for granted. 

  • Some people would love for nothing more than the ability to stand, walk, and get the mail from their mailbox. 
  • Others would love to run, but for some reason, physically can’t. 
  • Taking a shower for many in the world requires running water that they don’t have. 
  • Going to the grocery seems downright exotic to some in the world—either due to living in a food desert or not having enough money to buy food. 
  • Cooking said food is yet another luxury. 
  • Going to work means you have a job—something many pray for.
  • You get to drive home while many have to walk through the elements or simply have no place to even call home.  

While it seems like a pretty insignificant shift that likely won’t likely positively impact your mindset the first time you apply it, I challenge you to give it a shot. 

So, what do you get to do today?

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Determine How to Spend Time With One Question

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There have never been more ways to spend your time. Even if you have chosen to sit on your duff and watch a screen, the choices are endless.

Do you want to watch Netflix? Hulu? HBO? It seems like we’ll never scratch the surface of even figuring out what show to watch next. 

And that’s just watching TV. If you want to listen to music, read a book, take a class, cook a meal, or anything else—the options aren’t virtually endless, they’re genuinely endless in the span of a single human lifetime. It feels like we’re on a crusade against the word “boredom”—committed to ending its use.

So, how do we determine how to spend our time? 

I had been experiencing this dilemma lately. It would start with something mindless—a YouTube binge, a meme-scroll session, or something else. Then, after a while, my default mode network would flicker slightly and I’d “wake up” to the recurring question:

Is this is what I should be doing? Is this how I should be spending my time?

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with the occasional mindless escape into the world of entertainment with low nutritional value. But like consuming loads of empty calories, I never found myself feeling especially glad that I had done so. 

That’s when I asked myself a question that has become an immensely useful litmus test for gauging whether or not I should doing something: 

How will this activity make me feel after I’ve done it? Will I be glad that I did that? 

I’ve come to personally refer to this sensational-gauge as the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test.

One of the first times I put this litmus test for time consumption to work was while getting back into reading great stories. I’ve been on a John Grisham kick—reading A Time to Kill, Sycamore Row, A Time For Mercy, The Innocent Man, and The Rainmaker all within about the span of two or three months. I not only thoroughly enjoyed the stories but also just the act of reading. 

Setting my phone in the next room and arming myself with my Kindle Paperwhite connected to my public library account, reading became effortless. I turned off all page indicators so I had no idea how far I had left to go. Hours would fly by as I got lost in the texts. I would usually only stop when life’s other obligations would arise or when my reading would take me into the night and I found myself nodding off in the early morning hours.

Usually, when I’d binge a show or fall down an hours-long YouTube wormhole, I would come out the other side exhausted—beat, but with my mind still racing. However, every time I’d close my Kindle after a hearty reading session, I would feel refreshed—almost rested. There would be a genuine feeling of whew—that was great. I’m glad I did that.

Soon after realizing this difference, I became cognizant to gauge how certain activities made me feel—what I call the “subsequent tone” of an event or activity.  The following are a few experiments and their outcomes. 

Music Production

As a musician and a huge fan of the subgenre of Reggae known as “Dub,” within the past few months, I decided to try my hand at producing some Dub recordings of my own. Like reading, I found myself immersing myself in the process of piecing together drum sounds, recording bass lines, experimenting with chord progressions on my midi keyboard, and finding the perfect melodica melodies to tie up every “riddim” like a bow. Once I had recorded all of the instruments, I’d spend hours tweaking the recordings, effects, and molding them to my liking on my dinky laptop. 

I proudly released two of those recordings as singles—accessible to most streaming platforms. You can find them on the platform of your choice on my music page

As I completed the tracks and uploaded them for distribution, never once did I feel like I was wasting my time. Even after exhaustedly re-recording a bassline at 2 AM because the intonation on my bass guitar was off on the original recording, I felt the same sensations—man, I’m glad that I did that. Though I could barely keep my eyes open, I felt full of life. 


Rarely do I ever start a journaling session because I have a craving to scribble my thoughts onto a page. I usually do so because I feel like I have so many things on my mind that my own lack of clarity is starting to weigh me down. However, by the time I’ve laid out all of the “paperwork” of my mind onto the table of the page, I can begin to see what I can fix, what I should ignore, and what is holding me back. I start sketching out plans, goals, aspirations, and fixes. Then, closing my journal, I’m hit with the wave of man, I’m glad I did that


Rarely do I leave my house in the morning anxious to break a sweat. Whether I’m going out to my deck to jump rope or to walk or run laps around the nearby park, my soft bed still calls out to me. However, after my body has warmed up, my pulse increases, and I hit my stride, I start to feel alive. Heading back inside my house with a sweat-soaked beard and clothes sticking to me, I feel great. The rest of the day seems to go easier because I got my increased pulse and sweat to blow out the morning’s cobwebs. 


Like journaling and exercise, I rarely initiate my prayers pumped to be there. It can be an immense slog that requires many mindset and liturgical shifts before finding a groove. In Judaism, we have a concept referred to as “kavannah” — which most translate as “intention” but I prefer Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser’s translation, which I’ve heard is actually more accurate — “alignment.” The moments leading up to my moments of kavannah—my spiritual alignment with my Creator—can feel like a dial-up modem circa 1998 trying to log on to the internet. Like that dial-up modem, there is a lot of internal static, whirling, and sharp creaking—spiritual turbulence that accompanies such ascension. But like flying above the turbulence, there is a moment of soaring above the clouds where the connection is made.

When I have moments of immense kavannah, while it doesn’t feel like I can hear the voice of a Higher Power, it does feel as though Someone has picked up the receiver. Paraphrasing a quote from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l —“This call is being monitored for quality purposes.” 

As much as I may have to wrestle to get myself to get into a place of spiritual alignment, I always walk away from prayer with the feeling in my bones of, “I’m glad I did that.” 

Social Media

Though I stopped using about 97% of all social media years before officially using the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test as a decision-making tool, similar feelings resulted in me deleting my accounts. I can’t think of many if any instances in which I would conclude a social media scrolling session and feel better for having partaken in the social media experience. 

Applying the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test to Activities 

If you’re struggling to determine how you should be spending your limited time on this planet, I would urge you to apply this test to your own actions: after completing an activity, do you feel better having participated in that activity? 

Do you feel elevated or deflated?

Do you feel inspired or simply tired?

Do you feel fulfilled or drained?

Applying the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test to Life

Activities aren’t the only area of life where the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test can be applied. You can also use this test to determine other decisions—career choices, people, what foods to eat, and the like.

Sometimes, making a life-changing decision simply means asking yourself — Is this going to make me feel better or worse when it’s all over?

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My Favorite Place in the House to Start My Day

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“Win the morning, win the day.” – Tim Ferriss

Most of you who read this blog have likely noticed how much of a believer I am in developing morning routines—habitually performed rituals that give us the momentum we need to make the most of the rest of our day. While a good morning routine doesn’t guarantee a successful day, it gives you a fighting chance. 

With that said, my morning routines have been fairly erratic throughout this pandemic. Don’t get me wrong—they’re productive, yes. But set? Far from it. I have, however, found an unlikely activity that I will likely keep in my morning repertoire. Well, maybe more of a place than an activity. 

Step 1. I get up from bed. I use the bathroom. Feed the cat. Drink a pint of water. 

Step 2. I walk into my living room…and collapse to the floor. 

Yep. The floor. I really enjoy laying, sitting, rolling around…on the cold hard floor. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #1: It’s relentlessly soothing (or “soothingly” relentless?) 

The floor is…well, hard. Unforgiving. But you can lay on it. This combination of solid yet accommodating makes my thin area-rug-covered hardwood floor one of my favorite places to stretch out upon first thing in the morning. 

Not yet caffeinated or exercised, I’m not ready to do many activities that demand mental acuity or physical agility. My natural state is to want to return to the warm embrace of my memory foam mattress. However, sprawling out on the hard floor begins to awaken my joints and muscles without really any conscious effort. And the first thing in the morning, I’m looking for maximum output with minimum input. 

Rocking around on the floor feels like someone rolling a rolling pin up and down the back of your body. While that sounds painful, and it kind of is, it can also feel oh so good.

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #2: It’s stretching for soft, lazy people. 

In order to change positions on the hard floor feels like a natural movement while utilizing muscles you forgot you have. 

We spend most of our days in office chairs, supportive seats in a car, on sofas, and finally—big hyper-cushioned beds for hours and hours. All of these apparatuses are aimed at providing comfort. They do this by limiting certain body movements and our need to support parts of our body. They also cushion our kiesters and limit potential instances of circulation cut-offs in certain parts of the body—especially in the legs and feet. 

Though these adversity buffers can feel quite nice following a day of arduous labor, few of us break a sweat outside of a gym these days—if then. When this is the case, what were once devices for relief have become sloth enablers. If you are what you sit on, we’ve become a soft, doughy people. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #3: If you’re able to be comfortable sitting or laying on the floor, you can find comfort virtually anywhere.

I’ll be the first to admit that sitting and laying on the floor when you’re not used to doing so straight up suuuucks. It’s rigid, uncomfortable, and reveals just how tender and weak you have become as a human. If you’ve ever been forced to sleep or sit on the floor, you can attest to feeling like you should expect to find bruising under your tuchus, back, shoulders, and legs. 

After a while, however, you get used to it. You begin to understand how cultures all over the world have come to sit comfortably on the floor well into their old age. After even longer, you find yourself alternating between your $900 couch and enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine while sitting on the floor—just depending on the day. 

The greatest part of this last point is that getting used to sitting on the floor opens up a world of comfortable seating options to you wherever you are. Are all of the seats at the airport terminal taken? Are there more friends over to watch the big game than there are spots on your friend’s couch. Boom—the floor is yours, pun definitely intended. 

Now, you’ll just have to convince the host of the party that, yes, you really are quite ok with sitting on the floor without seeming like a crazy person. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #4: Increasing your ability to get up off the floor may actually help you live longer…kind of.

The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published a story about a team of Brazilian researchers who studied a group of men and women ages 51 to 80 years old for a number of years. One of their findings revealed an interesting discovery—those who required the use of both of their hands and knees to get up and down from the floor were nearly seven times more likely to die within six years than those who get up from the floor without additional support. 

Now, will spending time on the floor increase you ability to get up from it and thus extend your functional life? I don’t know. I do know that it will certainly give you more practice. 

Bonus: The Back Stretch I Do Every Morning on the Floor

I can’t say that this on-the-floor back stretch is the reason I don’t have any back pain, but I do it every morning and, yep, I don’t have any back pain. 

  • Lay on your back on the floor.
  • With your right arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your left shoulder, reach as far and high to the left as you can. 
  • Then change sides.
  • With your left arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your right shoulder, reach as far and high to the right as you can. 

Another bonus is a quote from my wife—who is also an advocate for spending more time on the floor. I told her that I was writing a piece on spending time on the floor in the mornings. I asked if she had any input. 

“Your day can only go up from there!”

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Two Ancient Notions That Helped Pull Me From the Depths

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The summer of 2020 was rough for a lot of people…

…for a lot of different reasons. It was rough for me because I was experiencing levels of health anxiety only matched by the week before I received a positive cancer diagnosis in 2017. 

This was different, though.

Was I displaying any physical symptoms? Eh, probably not. Then what was the source of the anxiety? For those who have experienced bouts of anxiety, you know that you don’t need a reason. In fact, most of us pray for a source of our torment so that we can know what the hell to fix. The worst anxiety often makes the least sense. 

But I did find something that turned it all around—two ancient notions that have been helping people like me for thousands of years. But these require additional context.

Anxiety is a lying snake.

Impending doom continued to swirl around my perception of how I was doing inside. These feelings were briefly alleviated by trips to my doctor. He would immediately tell me that nothing was wrong. In fact, that I was in better health than I had been since my teenage years. I would ride this high of relief for a few weeks only for the feelings of anxiety and dread to slither back into my life. 

My health anxiety would crack fever pitches just before surveillance appointments—routine follow-up scans with my urologist following my cancer treatment in 2017. This bubbling dread leading up to scans is what is known as “scanxiety” in the cancer community. 

He’d usually just walk into the examination room, tell me how the scans showed nothing abnormal, and remind me that I hadn’t displayed any signs of cancer in several years. 

A few months later, the dread would reappear—like Ol’ Pap Finn back in town, looking for his Huckleberry to knock around. Rinse and repeat.

But that was all about to change.

One morning in early spring 2021, the dread slithered up my spine and sat atop my shoulder as I examined my appearance in the bathroom mirror. With it’s split tongue tickling every consonant, it whispered—

“You’re going to die soon.” 

Taking a deep breath and realizing it was [only] the anxiety talking—something meditation had made me hip to—I let a deep exhale flap my lips in cheeky facetious exasperation as I let out my reply.

Well, if that’s the case, I better make this summer count,” chuckling to myself, scoffing off the serpent’s lies as I dried my hands and walked out of the bathroom. 

I didn’t know it at the time but something shifted inside. That serpent, who thrived on my fear and dread, was defanged. 

Did I truly believe that I was going to die soon? No—it was just another lie my mind was trying to get me to believe. 

But I started living as though it were true

  • I made an extra effort to spend time with people I cared about —sometimes seeking out old friends who had slipped through life’s cracks.
  • I became more conscious of what foods, habits, and activities made me feel my best and made a point to fill my life with them.
  • I sought out moments of peace. 
  • I made conscious efforts to be more present in everything I did—especially while spending time with loved ones. 
  • And yes, this was around the time I quit social media—an activity I’ve mostly replaced with more pleasure-reading than I had done in my entire life. Thanks, John Grisham.

With these activities and the mental residue that accompanied them, my dread was rendered powerless. The whispered lies grew increasingly faint and manageable. Ease and contentment snuck their way back into my life reminiscent of childhood.

There’s no doubt that these activities aided in managing my mood and anxiety levels. Still, I attribute much of this relief to the combination of two philosophical pillars of Stoicism I had learned about years prior but had begun inadvertently practicing—amor fati and memento mori. 

Amor Fati

We have little control over what happens to us in life. And how boring would life be if we could? Without a little uncertainty, you may not have ever met your spouse or discovered your passion. 

Amori fati literally means a love of one’s fate—whatever that happens to be. Even if it sucks. Because ultimately it will teach you something or play a role in helping you become the person you were meant to be just as it had up to this point. Fighting fate is a losing battle, so you might as well fall in love with it. 

Memento Mori

Speaking of fate, you’re going to die. 

“Yeah, but not for a while.” 

Says who? You could die in a few months. Next week. Tomorrow. 

Instead of letting this idea burden your thoughts, use it to bring clarity to your life. When tomorrow is not promised, this notion should make your next meal delicious, every sunset spectacular, and moments with those close to you an extravagant privilege. The governor just gave you a stay of execution—what are you going to do with it before he changes his mind?

Memento mori means “remembrance of death” — which is actually a remembrance of life. 

Death is inevitable and thus a silly fear. The true fear is never having truly lived.

Still, it is important to remember that yes, you’re going to die. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Simply make sure you’re squeezing the juice out of life and not leaving any meat on the bone. 

These notions may not click for you or change your life right now or even in the near future. That’s ok. But they’re planted. If you’re like me, your subconscious may need to chew on them for a few years before they “turn on.” My prayer is that one day, your mind finds use for them when you most need them.

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The Now Page: A Blog Post About a New Page on My Site

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As most of you may know, in May 2021, I left most social media platforms — at least the trifecta of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter [fortunately, I had not yet joined TikTok]. Yes, I still have a LinkedIn account and periodically update creator pages [not profiles] on Facebook.   

Still, this has led many to wonder what I’m up to. I guess I wasn’t alone in this. Writer and CD Baby founder Derek Sivers also found himself being frequently asked what he was up to in a way that social media couldn’t adequately answer. This is when he invented the Now page. 

A Now page? Isn’t that what social media is for?

Derek’s reply

“No. If I wonder how someone is doing these days, it doesn’t help me to see that they went on vacation last week, are upset about something in the news, or even got a new job. That’s not the big picture.

Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year.”

And this was written pre-covid! 

Derek encouraged others to make their own Now pages on their own websites, though he stresses an important rule: 

“This isn’t for marketing or attention. It will not benefit you in any business way.”

So, I have decided to put up my own Now page. I may end up emailing my list whenever I update it, but then again, I may not.

I will update this for the sake of my far-flung, oft-missed friends. If you’re a friend of mine and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I’ll always prefer catching up over a drink than reading Now pages. 

You can check out my Now page at