In Defense of Suspenders: And, Oh Yeah, Belts Suck

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The Reflective Nature of Quarantine

This time of lockdown/quarantine has been one of the most unique times in the lives of my generation. Many of us had been unknowingly living according to schedules and routines set by others. While having your docket cleansed of the plans seems liberating, we were then simultaneously limited in the activities we could place on it due to social distancing guidelines. For many, this paradoxical free-to-do-everything yet not-allowed-to-do-anything forced some to step up to the plate of their own aspirations. For others, it has resulted in a free-fall into the abyss of mindless social media black holes, time sacrifices at the altar of Netflix, and maddening isolation. 

For me, this isolation forced me to carefully inspect my life. My blessings. My curses. My goals. My fears. My habits. It made me take a deep look at the man I want to be for those for whom I care most. 

This time of self-rediscovery has revealed another truth to me: suspenders are way better than belts. In fact, belts suck. That’s right—I said it.

My son in his classic two-tone suspenders.

How the Hell Did I Come to This Conclusion

I know it sounds very random to have such a hot take on trouser accessories. Well, over the course of the last year, I’ve lost roughly 40 pounds. While this has been a life-changing journey into health and fitness, the change left me with a closet full of ill-fitting pants. While I could buy new trousers, I happen to like my pants. They’re otherwise perfect. However, for the past eight or so months, I’ve been cinching up my waistband with a belt as though I’ve been tying off a garbage bag. The result had been flaps of loose fabric and constant adjustments. After a little research, I decided to try out suspenders this week. 

The results? Wow, why did we ever give these up for something as terrible as a belt? 

Why I Prefer Suspenders Over Belts

1. Suspenders make sense from a physics perspective.

Your biggest obstacle to keeping your pants up is gravity. To consistently oppose gravity, your best bet is to restrict any downward movement of the pants. Suspenders do this in the most sensical way possible—by distributing the opposing downward force across your shoulders, which are more than capable of supporting the weight of pants and anything in your pockets. Belts, on the other hand, will always fail eventually. 

Either they (a) will require that you cinch them tight enough for the friction of the waistband to support the weight of the pants or they will (b) sit too loose to be of any reliable good. The result is a losing battle. 

2. Suspenders make sense from a biological perspective. 

The human body is a marvelous machine—perfectly calibrated to transform water, air, and organic matter into fuel…as well as poop and pee. The use of belts over the years literally changes our bodies. They frequently disrupt the more even distribution of fat throughout the torso, resulting in the “dunlop” belly for those carrying more weight on their frame.

The extended wearing of tight belts also isn’t great for your digestive system. One medical study carried out by Professor Kenneth McColl of the University of Glasgow discovered links between wearing tight belts and some forms of throat cancer due to increased instances of acid reflux. The same study found associations between tight belts and an increased risk of hernia. 

So, yeah, belts are tourniquets for your guts. Suspenders, on the other hand, like…aren’t. 

3. Utilitarian suspenders are immensely unfashionable…and are therefore sustainably fashionable.

Once upon a time, if you wanted help keeping your trousers up, suspenders were your go-to method. Belts were primarily used to keep robes closed or to hold tools and weapons handy. It wasn’t until pants were designed with lower waistbands that suspenders started to take a backseat to belts—and even then, it was purely a choice of fashion, not function.

These days, skinny, sleek, or rustically weathered leather suspenders are a popular look among hipster mixologists and baristas. However, when it comes to utilitarian “fashion,” suspenders have been mostly been relegated to improv comedy performers, seventh-grade geography teachers, retirees, skinheads (both racist and non-racist), and the Amish. 

That being said, there’s something sustainably fashionable about something as classically sensical as suspenders. My personal fashion must endure decades of functional style. That’s the reason why my glasses, hats, pants, and shoes likely could have been fashionable in most decades while at the same time not turning heads in any decade. Whenever my fashion choices can be simultaneously functional and timeless, that’s usually the route I will take.

All of this being said, I only wear shorts when exercising or swimming. For those who choose to wear suspenders with shorts…I guess I’ll see you at Oktoberfest?

4. Suspenders are functionally superior to belts. 

  • Suspenders don’t ever cut you through the middle after a large meal or sitting for an extended period of time.
  • Suspenders allow you to have your pants completely unbuttoned and unzipped without having to simultaneously hold them up—which is especially not fun if you have heavier objects in your pockets.
  • Sayonara, plumber’s crack.

But Mostly, Belts Suck

I could have very well titled this piece “Belts Suck: What Other Options Exist?” However, I chose to take the high road and support my favorite means of support: suspenders. Feel free to give them a shot. I don’t know what you have to lose, but its definitely not your pants.

In my own suspenders.

Helping Relieve Anxiety & Depression With God’s First Question

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Disclaimer: This piece is not meant to treat those experiencing clinical depression and anxiety—which should be addressed by a medical professional. However, for those with the occasional episodes of anxiety and depression, to quote one of my favorite writers, Patrick Rhone, this could help. 

A great deal of anxiety and depression stem from our own broken emotional time machines. 

These time machines can trigger a spiral of depression when we replay moments of anguish or regret—whether these are accurate depictions or warped perceptions of said events. In other instances, these malfunctioning flux capacitors can spark bouts of anxiety by painting worst-case projections of the future. Whether we’re reeling over a past disappointment or spinning rotisserie-style in our beds over what the future may bring, there’s a question we need to ask ourselves—the same question God asked of “us” in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 9. 


Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?”

This is the question God articulated as the first two humans scurried into the bushes to hide their newly-realized nakedness.

This one-word question seems odd. Surely, if we can determine our friends’ precise coordinates using a device we keep in our slacks, the Creator of the universe can locate two fig-leaf-bikini-sporting folks in a garden. The simple explanation is that God knew precisely where they were, but that the man and woman, themselves, did not. Their emotional compasses were shattered. They were blinded by the realization of their wrongdoing and trembling over the imagined consequences as they heard God’s footsteps in the garden tiptoeing closer and closer. 

The question God put forth was not was in order to obtain an answer but to inspire them to ask the question of themselves. And us. 

One of the devastating impacts of depression and anxiety is that they sap the pleasure from the present moment. In most instances, we’re too wrapped up in the past or the future to look at where we are. We’re emotionally time traveling in our backfiring machines, gasping on its exhaust, incapable of simply taking a breath to shelf any time that isn’t right now.

How do we shelf the past and future? Well, with three steps. 

Step 1: Realize that you’re not your thoughts and emotions…with practice. 

One of the biggest lies that we tend to believe is that we are our thoughts and emotions. 

When we’re feeling depressed, we remove the word “feeling” and believe, “I am depressed.” Likewise, when we’re feeling anxious, we remove the word “feeling” and believe, “I am anxious.” 

(As a dorky dad would say, “Nice to meet you, anxious—I’m dad.”) 

Ugh, what terrible identity, right? But it’s not who you are. You’re not depressed—you’re Anthony, and you’re feeling depressed. You’re not anxious—you’re Jessica, and you’re feeling anxious. This understanding is necessary when appraising your thoughts and emotions. 

How can we do this? With practice.

  • Sit with your thoughts. 
  • Watch as they approach like a meteorologist watches clouds in the sky. 
  • Become mindful of when the storm clouds of negative thoughts and emotions arrive.
  • Monitor and appraise these thoughts and emotions—not like someone in the path of the storm, but as a meteorologist tracking it from another place. 
  • Practice this and grow accustomed to the sensation of these thoughts and emotions. 

Step 2: Ask yourself, “Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?”

Indulging a negative thought or emotion can make you feel downright stuck. Much like trying to floor the gas pedal to free a vehicle from a muddy ditch, attempting to not think about a thought causing anxiety or depression can wear an even deeper rut. How can you rock yourself free from this emotional thicket? By taking a shotgun to our time machine. 

When you realize that you’re experiencing a moment of anxiety or depression, audibly ask yourself: “Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?” (You don’t have to say the Hebrew, but I find it keeps people from wondering if I’m talking to them and instead makes them think I’m just clearing my throat. 😉 ) 

What’s the point of asking ourselves this question? It forces us to put our feet on the ground and wake up to the present moment. Why the present moment? Well, because it’s probably not that bad. In fact, it’s probably pretty great

Just think about where you are when you’re experiencing anxiety or depression. If you’re “trapped” in your home, you’re home—likely your favorite place. If you’re near a window, you can see the sky, may be able to hear birds singing, or have the ability to open it and feel a breeze. You may be close to your family—the people you cherish and who cherish you. Even if you’re anxiously tossing and turning as you try to sleep, you’re snuggled up in your warm, safe bed. What could be better? 

Asking “ay’yehkah—where are you?” can help you realize that you’re not in the present and motivate you to return. If you were to regain consciousness in that precise moment and look immediately at what lay before you, it would likely be pretty awesome. 

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

Step 3: Attempt to live 60 seconds at a time. 

After nuking your broken emotional time machine by recentering your focus with  a full-throated or even whispered “ay’yehkah,” strive to live in 60-second increments. The past is already over. The future is anyone’s guess. What is certain? Only that which lays before you in this 60-second increment. Not 24/7 political news. Not sinking in the contrived infinity pool of social media. All that exists are these 60 seconds. Live within that time like a dolphin in the aquarium inhabits its tank. 

My prayer is that you come to realize that you aren’t thoughts, that you sledgehammer your dysfunctional emotional time machine with a robust “ay’yehkah,” and cannon-ball into the pool that is the right now

The water feels fine. 

3 Ways of Quelling Hypochondria-Induced Anxiety

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a medical professional. I’m just a guy who has lost many nights of sleep due to nervous anxiety. The following are a few ways I manage my thoughts.

Hi, I’m Ken, and I’m a hypochondriac. About once a year for a span running either a few weeks to as much as over a month, I’m convinced that I have some malady that will take me down—either kill me or forever change my life. 

If he knows he’s a hypochondriac, shouldn’t that be enough to remind him that he’s acting irrationally? 

Well, not exactly. You see, I’m also a cancer survivor. In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 1 testicular cancer. Though primarily treated with one surgery where my right testicle was removed, I’ve been in remission and under surveillance ever since. Still worse, I experienced one of the most significant setbacks for a hypochondriac—I was right

Fast forward to 2019. I began feeling a recurring dull pain in my grown. 

Oh great. Not this again.

While a second pass of testicular cancer in remaining testicle was possible (it’s happened to others before), it was highly unlikely. I consulted my urologist. The verdict? The testicle was completely normal. I had also just started a strenuous jump rope workout routine from having never really exercised regularly in my life. He deemed that the likely culprit for the inner groin pain and told me to contact him again if it persisted. It didn’t. After a few weeks, I didn’t experience any groin pain or further associated anxiety. 

Fast forward to 2020. Not one, not two, but three of my friends have been battling lymphoma—successfully, but not easily. Needless to say, it’s on my mind. 

Later, during the covid pandemic, I read Beastie Boys Book. If you’re unfamiliar, one of the founding members of Beastie Boys, Adam “MCA” Yauch, died from cancer of the salivary gland. Between my friends battling lymphoma to reading about Adam, I started to swear that I felt something happening in my own throat. Swallowing began to feel strange. I began checking my own lymph nodes multiple times a day (by the way, this is a great way to agitate your lymph nodes—just sayin’). 

Weeks went by. Lymph node checks on the couch while watching TV or reading books became a common twitch. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, wondering if something was going on. Still, one situation continued that most every hypochondriac can attest to: I felt like something should be wrong, but there wasn’t enough wrong to justify a doctor’s visit. 

At this time, I also discovered one fascinating thing about the throat: it’s incredibly responsive to…wait for it…anxiety. There’s even a name for it—globus pharygenus. It’s the harmless nervous lump you’ve likely felt in your throat during an intense or traumatic event—ranging from a job interview to a funeral. It doesn’t help that the more anxious you become about it, the worse it can become. It’s almost like your body is trolling your emotions. 

1. The Perspective-Correcting Question

Most days, any perceived “symptoms” would only flare up when I would think about them. Noticing this stimulus was key to a question I would later use to largely quell my anxiety. 

“If you had woken up today with your complete memory of the last six months erased, anxieties and all, would the symptoms you’re feeling at this moment justify a doctor’s visit?”

Once I asked myself, I knew the answer: no. I probably wouldn’t even register them as “symptoms.” Suddenly, I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders. But why? 

For most of us with irrational anxieties about our health, the severity of these delusions are intensified by the weight we give them. We’re not anxious about the supposed “symptom” we’re presently feeling this moment, but we’re instead recalling all of the anxieties we’ve logged away in regard this feeling before. Every time our minds shift to the worst-case scenarios in regard to this feeling, we’re essentially picking the scab on an emotional wound that our minds are trying to heal every day.

So, what is the answer? When assessing how you feel, keep your assessment to that specific moment—not the anxieties of the past. Ask yourself, if this moment was the first time I felt this perceived “symptom,” would it justify a doctor’s visit? Almost every time, the answer will be “no.” Every day that this is the case, the more the wound of your own anxiety can heal until you can successfully leave it behind. 

So, what if it does justify a doctor’s visit?

For many of us hypochondriacs, we fear making that doctor’s appointment because of what it may reveal. When this is the case, simply make an appointment for a routine checkup. Though you’d feel silly about making an appointment about what may just be an anxious sensation, making an appointment for the exam will feel less ominous. During the appointment, you should probably tell your doctor about the symptom that is worrying you, but also definitely acknowledge the anxiety you’re feeling regarding such sensations. Either way, the doctor will be able to assist you to relieve your anxiety—whether via treatment of your body, your mind, or just a friendly pep talk. 

2. Journal Daily

In addition to asking yourself the magic mind-erasing question and seeing your doctor when necessary, my next recommendation is among the easiest—journaling. Every day, write down how you’re feeling, physically and mentally. In most instances, the simple act of putting your thoughts and emotions into words will help you process them. Don’t hold back. Feel free to write down your worst fears, your highest hopes, and everything in between. Your mind will thank you. 

3. This Too Shall Pass

And my last bit of advice: when you’re wracked with anxiety, whether from hypochondria or other stress, utter and embody these four words: “this too shall pass.” Anxiety has a way of suffocating our perceptions of the future. We feel like we’re going to feel this way forever. Guess what? You’re not. This too shall pass. 

You’ve got this. 

The Rich Poor Man: Insatiable Affluence vs Contented Poverty

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What is wealth or richness? These terms vary depending to whom they are referring. To one person, someone rich has a six-figure income. To someone else, six figures are just the beginning. Putting the actual income level aside, what even makes this income appealing? Surely, a briefcase full of cash makes for a decent footrest under your desk, but most would say that the appeal of abundant monetary wealth is the afforded luxury of freedom—of time, actions, resources. They can do whatever they desire. 

Then there is the person that typically makes less than six figures—the office clerk, the teacher, the janitor, the bus driver, the grocery store attendant. Do they have the same desire for freedom as the CEO, the doctor, or lawyer? Undoubtedly. 

Now, let us distill why freedom equals happiness. More often than not, this freedom-thus-happiness comes with a steep cost. For some, many weeks going over evidence and preparing their client for a court case may result in some of that freedom-thus-happiness. For others, bathing an elderly person one morning can result in a bit of that freedom-thus-happiness. 

What if that person bathing the elderly felt indeed contented in their pursuit of freedom-thus-happiness, though the defense attorney utterly hated every moment of their job? What if the fast-food worker sang while cooking food in the back of a hot kitchen while the CEO stared at the ceiling fan all night, wondering what kind of people her children would grow up to be? What is the cost of affluence if someone is routinely required to slowly and systematically crush their own soul in the process?  

The measure of a rich person should not be the digits on their bank statement, but the measure of the void between longing and contentment. By this definition, an elementary school teacher who must purchase her own school supplies may live a life of existential opulence while the gold-cufflinked stockbroker may indeed be spiritually destitute and emotionally famished. 

More often than not, the pursuit of wealth is far more costly and far less gratifying than the pursuit of contentment. 

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. … Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough.” – Seneca

Giving Up is Immensely Underrated

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last year, I cultivated four incredibly beneficial lifestyle habits (and wrote a free book about the experience) that I continue to utilize in my daily life. As 2020 rolled around, I was incredibly inspired to see what other habits I could develop. As I began to look into my spiritual life, though prayer was now a regular morning staple, my religious study was in need of some strengthening. Fortunately for me, there was Daf Yomi. 

If you don’t know what Daf Yomi is, don’t worry—even a lot of Jewish folks don’t, much less the general public. “Daf Yomi” literally means “a page a day.” A page of what? Talmud. What is Talmud? The Talmud (specifically the Babylonian Talmud) is over 300 years of conversations between Jewish religious authorities extrapolating, debating, and exploring every nook and cranny of Jewish law. Discussions are filled with great wisdom, table-pounding arguments across centuries, a dash of old-timey folklore, and even jokes. It’s words fill 63 books known as “tractates” and 2,711 double-sided folio pages—each called a “daf.” One side/half of a “daf,” when translated into English, is roughly 1,000-1,300 words. When read in English at a conversational pace, each “daf” takes about 30 minutes. 

If studying Talmud sounds quite daunting and difficult to navigate, that’s because it absolutely is. That being said, many find its study immensely fulfilling. It is said to sharpen the mind of its students—teaching them how to carefully examine life’s most and least significant questions with an analytical mind. To manage the process of studying the entire Talmud, some authorities on the matter established Daf Yomi— a “one page a day” cyclical and communal study of the Babylonian Talmud. This seven-year(and some change) study sought to make Talmud study like eating the metaphorical elephant one bite at a time in lock-step with the community. Because everyone partaking in the study is on the same page every day, they could discuss the same material. Sidenote: If you plan on eating a non-metaphorical elephant, they are technically kosher, but their size and strength make appropriately and humanely slaughtering them virtually impossible. That, and they’re largely endangered, so you’d end up looking like a real jerk. Anyway, back to the article. 

Though one need not to wait for the Daf Yomi merry-go-round to end before hopping on, around the turn of the new year, the previous cycle had just finished with a new one slated to begin again just a week or so after the beginning of 2020. I was determined to hop on. What happened next was mostly my own fault. 

Accountability Man

I approached studying Daf Yomi like I did my other habits. 

Identity: Instead of telling myself “I’m a guy who studies Daf Yomi,” I started saying, “I’m a committed Daf Yomi student.” Check. 

Environment: I had found the perfect nook at my kitchen table that I would utilize for my study. As soon as my son was asleep, I’d go to my Daf Yomi nook and get started. 

Accountability: Boy, oh, boy did I lean into accountability. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to start studying Daf Yomi on my own and keep with it. 

Because of this, firstly, I set up a group text with a handful of buddies from my synagogue (most of whom never expressed an interest in being in such a group—sorry, fellas) with the idea that each of us could share what we gleaned from the daily daf. 

Secondly, I actually set up a website blog where I would share my daily daf insights. 

My third accountability step took it to the next level; I made a Daf Yomi podcast using Anchor. I read the daily daf in English into my phone for the benefit of one of the dyslexic group text members who prefers audiobooks. 

I planned on being one daf ahead of the group so that the podcast episode would drop the morning of its accompanying daf. 

So, off I went.

I started at a gentle pace. I got a free Sunday afternoon, so I preloaded my week by studying and recording several pages of Daf Yomi. Once that surplus was published, I went back to daily…then back to preloading. 

I checked in with the group every so often. At first, everyone was immensely responsive to the daily insights. Some were sharing their own. My dyslexic friend thanked me immensely for my efforts with the podcast.

The blog was…well, a brand-new blog. It can take months or years for a blog to get traction. I essentially treated it as a repository for my notes. 

As I went along, the group text response began to fizzle. I asked my dyslexic friend if he had been enjoying the podcast. He said he had gotten around to “this week’s” episodes.  

After a few weeks of reading into my phone for 30 minutes a day followed by writing summaries and scheduling posts, the weight of Daf Yomi went from a giggling baby on my shoulders to an impatient, squirmy toddler. While the insights were fascinating, the break-neck schedule didn’t allow me to spend time with the content. This isn’t the fault of Daf Yomi, but rather the lack of bandwidth my daily schedule allowed. I was beginning to feel burnout from what now seemed like a daily homework assignment on top of daily prayer, meditation, exercise, spending time with my son, my wife, my job, my friends, books I wanted to read, etc. I had to be truly honest with myself—Daf Yomi was not currently how I wanted to spend my time. 

Before I got through the first tractate, I decided to quit. 

The Freedom of Being Honest With One’s Self

Though I truly wanted to be a student of Daf Yomi, it turns out that I didn’t want it as bad as I had initially thought. While it seemed like a nice idea, it was never really a passion. Don’t get me wrong—I love being a student of my faith, but a tractate of Talmud isn’t what my hand naturally gravitates to when approaching my bookshelf. I’m much more of a Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Nachman, or Mussar type of guy. 

But this extends further than which books I want to read. This extends into being honest with who I am. Should I want to be a Talmud student? Sure—Talmud has shaped the faith, practice, and minds of my people for generations. Am a Talmud student? Eh, not really. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I’m not saying that I shouldn’t give up on religious study altogether just because Talmud study isn’t my cup of tea, but rather that being honest with myself allows me the freedom to explore what is my cup of tea and give it more of my time. Why? Sometimes someone’s cup of tea isn’t tea at all. Sometimes it’s black coffee. 

As soon as I decided, “I quit, but I feel OK about quitting,” that squirming toddler on my shoulders of the responsibilities associated with Daf Yomi stopped fluttering and hopped down. I pointed my existing podcast listeners to an alternative podcast with a passionate host. I completely took down the blog (not that it really had any traction) and reallocated that slot in my day towards things that truly resonated with who I am. I increased my journaling. I tightened the bolts on my daily exercise and meditation routine. I made a conscious effort to be more present with my wife and son. I started to interact with friends, setting up hang outs mostly free of digital distractions. I did things that I would look forward to with great anticipation.

I learned a lot from my short time studying Daf Yomi, but the biggest lesson I learned is that an intentional, well-executed “OK, I give up” is immensely underrated.


The Case For Quirk: Channeling Your Inner Picky Child

Reading Time: 7 minutes

“Why do I get pesto? Why do I think I’ll like it? I keep trying to like it—like I have to like it.”

“Who said you have to like it?”

“Everybody likes pesto. You walk into a restaurant, that’s all you hear—pesto, pesto, pesto.”

“I don’t like pesto.”

“Where was pesto ten years ago?”

More than a scene from “The Busboy” episode of Seinfeld, you’ve likely experienced an instance like this yourself—a situation where you feel self-conscious about exerting your preferences and “sticking to your guns.” In an attempt to be an open-minded explorer of worlds, you end up forgoing sure-fire preferences for maybe-I’ll-like-it-this-times. 

Here’s an unpopular opinion: pickiness is severely underrated. 

Though modern society is designed to make us feel like curmudgeons for not continually seeking the hip new thing, most of this anxiety is engineered FOMO—fear of missing out. I, for one, lean into JOMO—the joy of missing out. How? By embracing my picky, quirky, eccentric ways, i.e., things I know I’ll like. 

The Happiness of a Picky Kid

As a kid, did you have bouts of pickiness? Were there periods of time whenever you were obsessed with a particular song, food, or clothing ensemble? Do you recall how much happiness these simple preferences brought you? I was recently revisiting my childhood pickiness and discovered something quite magical; if you dare to abandon all outside expectations for what you’re supposed to want, like, or enjoy, you can receive immense joy from the simplest of creature comforts. 

There is one caveat of this path, though — you have to channel your inner picky child.

Picky Child or Chronic Preference Researcher? 

I was blessed with very wise parents. They recognized that children operate in phases. Instead of freaking out about the bizarre choices my brother and I would make, they would give us our space, but closely monitor our choices to see where they would take us. 

Most of the time, my chosen preferences about what I wanted to eat, wear, pump into my headphones, or watch on the television — all were subject to sudden and drastic change. My parents also understood that, had they wanted to limit my bouts of experimentation, there would be a strong likelihood I would resent this intrusion and latch to what they deemed detestable — aka, the cause of most teenage rebellion. Their only stipulations were for my own good — making sure that I ate my vegetables, got to bed at a reasonable hour, and never rolled my eyes when asked to brush my teeth or take out the trash. 

I imagine that this tolerance of my experimentation wasn’t always easy for them. At one point in my childhood, I remember a time when all I wanted to wear were overall-shorts, red cowboy boots, a cape, and my dad’s old football helmet (notice I didn’t mention a shirt). I remember accompanying my mom to pick up my dad from the airport one day, donned in my broke-down superhero vestments. Everyone at the baggage claim likely assumed I was as crazy as a soup sandwich…or that I was five years old, which I was. 

But guess what? I was happy and everyone was fine. 

The Picky 30-Something-Year-Old

Returning to the realization that I was allowed to embrace my picky inner child came about recently not as an epiphany as much as it was my wife giving my picky behavior a loving dig. One evening, while watching the famed producer Rick Rubin interview another famed producer, Pharrell, I said to my wife, “Rick Rubin is my spirit animal.” 

For those of you unacquainted with Rick Rubin, he’s pretty much the veteran Gandalf of recorded modern music with a likely shorter list of musicians he hasn’t worked with than he has. In addition to his work, he is a caricature of “cool.” Though always sporting a long, thick beard and a shoulder-length truly unmanicured bed head, these days, he’s almost always in cotton shorts, barefoot, oozing Sunday-afternoon-backyard-uncle energy. His words float out of his bearded face like clouds with so much space between sentences that you could rent it out in Midtown Tulsa for $900 a month. You get it — I like the guy.

Rick Rubin (right) and Kendrick Lamar (left) at Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios.

“Only that you can’t stand to wear shorts or go barefoot,” my wife said without looking up from the cabbage stew she was stirring on the stove. She was right — I’m one quirky dude. 

Just to give you a further taste:

  • I have to sleep in full pajamas because I don’t like the feeling of my skin touching my other skin — also the reason I rarely wear shorts. 
  • I choose coffee mugs by the way their handles feel. 
  • Before I was married, I only slept in hammocks. 
  • I once spent about five hours shopping for the perfect belt. It turned out to be about $12. 
  • I dislike the feeling of plastic — especially plastic cups and combs. 
  • All of my clothes must be “nappable.” 
  • Depending on the closeness of our relationship, if you are a male, I will likely call you either “buddy” (for friendly acquaintances) or “bubba” (for close personal friends). 

I could go on, but then again, so could you. 

The act of acknowledging my eccentricities scratches an even deeper itch—that these quirks are my conditions for increased happiness and optimal living. The way my clothes, combs, and coffee mugs feel. The warmth I feel for my friends. The intention I put into the possessions I choose to let into my life. My disregard for certain societal norms (e.g. sleeping in a bed) versus comfort preferences (e.g. sleeping in a hammock). By taking ownership of my “quirks” and the ways in which I am picky, I can lean into these to bring more joy into my life. Like a pet lizard’s owner fills their reptile’s terrarium with the lizard’s favorite things, I realized that I too could fill my life with the sensations I find most pleasing to facilitate consistent joy. 

Imagine a Life Filled with Favorites

“If you do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” – Tony Robbins

Though this quote is usually meant to jar people out of a rut, when you apply it to a scenario in which you enjoy what things that you’ve always done, it takes on an entirely new meaning. It goes from, if only I could get out of this rut to you mean I don’t have to feel bad about only wanting to wear bamboo-fiber socks? Nice! Bring on more of the same, please!

The Dangers of Living in a Joy Terrarium

While living in a bubble of your own curated happiness sounds blissful, before you do so, there are a handful of questions you should probably ask yourself. 

  1. Are any of my preferential quirks self-destructive?

You wouldn’t think that a lifestyle preference perceived as optimal could be self-destructive, but they absolutely can. Excessive usage of pretty much anything can be harmful to your physical, mental, and spiritual health. One question to ask before leaning into a quirky preference is, “is this sustainable?” If your quirk is that you only want to eat top ramen, the answer is a resounding “no.” I don’t believe that stuff is actually even food.

  1. Are any of your “quirks” rooted in prejudice?

There’s a massive difference between a quirky preference and a prejudiced mindset based on unsubstantiated hate of an entire people or culture. If that’s the case, you’re not picky or quirky—you’re likely just a jerk. Genuine preferences are developed utilizing research and experimentation. George doesn’t like pesto because he’s tried pesto, not because he hates Italians. 

  1. Are there any of my quirks that may hurt or inconvenience anyone else?

I feel blessed that most of my conditions for joy are relatively benign to the existence of others. My coffee mug, wooden comb, and single belt do not adversely impact the life of my wife or son. If you have a preference for listening to the music at full blast or sleeping in a hammock while married, you may need to compromise on some of your lifestyle choices. This compromise would be for the sake of preserving essential relationships and the sanity of those in your life. I’ve personally discovered that I occasionally need to make comprises because not everyone enjoys jalapeno and anchovy pizza as much as I do. But seriously, give it a shotor don’t. Your preference.

Dipping Your Toe Out of Your Comfort Zone…You Know, For Research Purposes

Keep in mind that you once dipped your toe out of your comfort zone to discover what you now prefer. If your favorite food is authentic Chinese cooking and you’re not from a Chinese family, you likely took a gamble at one point—and it paid off! Though it can be tempting to limit yourself solely to your picky preferences, allow yourself instances where you take these gambles for research purposes. Set time aside from life in your terrarium to lower your force fields and try the fish tofu pudding fish from China Garden at 31st & Mingo in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Yes, this has all been an elaborate commercial for China Garden. Ok, just kidding. But seriously, it’s so damn good.

There Really is No “MO” in JOMO

JOMO (the joy of missing out) is somewhat of an inaccurate description of the sensation of relishing in your eccentricities. There isn’t really any “missing out” from the perspective of an honest JOMOer…or is it JOMOist? No, being picky in this context does not mean plugging your ears, closing your eyes, and singing the chorus to German Eurodance group ATC’s 1999 international radio hit “Around the World” (yes, it’s “la la la la”). Being picky means you’ve done the research, you’ve discovered what you like, and you’ve chosen to spend the majority of your relatively short life enjoying these selections rather than being consumed with chasing after fleeting maybes. 

Some call them “creature comforts.” A JOMOist just calls them “my life.” 

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Also, if you like this, you may a free downloadable ebook I wrote about how I cultivated five life-changing habits in 2019 called An Upgraded Year: Why & How I Picked Up Five Transformational Habits in 2019. 


What I Learned in 2019: My Last Journal Entry of the Year

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I do believe that 2019 has been one of the most transformational years of my life. It will forever go down as the year of intention — of discovering what I believe a great life to be and what is necessary to live it out daily. 

This year I learned…

Good habits don’t have to suck. They can be downright enjoyable. In fact, they should be enjoyable or else you probably won’t stick with them. Removing as much friction between you and your doings is the only way to ensure they actually get done. 

I am not the voice in my head. Meditation has shown this to me. It has also shown me that the voice in my head may actually represent the worst side of me, but that this is only through years of leaning into a negative bias. Training the voice in my head to be positive and the idea that I can do so has been immensely inspiring. 

It’s surprising how little I need to be happy. And these aren’t even “needs”, but falling more under the category of “pleasantries.” A good book. A comfortable pair of shoes. A jump rope. A practical watch. A french press coffee maker. The occasional drink. A few musical instruments. A means of hearing great music. My prayer accouterment. Boom — I’m a happy camper. All other joys are nonphysical. 

Social media is no match for a one-on-one drink with a good friend. Keeping up with a myriad of acquaintances online has lost its luster. But even the cheapest of beers with the oldest of pals has really become a release valve for me. I would take an evening with a buddy over the most spectacular, extravagant entertainment money can buy. 

There’s a certain pleasure in getting my attention locked into a good book. This has been the first year that my attention span has been trained to the point of being able to do this. In fact, there are times when I’ve wanted nothing more than to be left alone with whatever book I happened to be enjoying. This is new for me, but I pray that it continues. 

Memento mori. Tomorrow is not promised, that I am going to die one day so that I need to take active steps towards my goals now. If you’re going to write that book, start now because tomorrow is not promised. If you’re going to be that amazing father, start this instant because you’re not promised another breath. Avoid deathbed regret whenever possible. 

Amor fati — love your fate and let it update who you are. The good and the bad should both be leaned into to become a better you. 

Don’t react — respond. If you don’t know how to do so, train your mind through meditation. Sit with your thoughts to see that they are thoughts. This is how you will be able to create the buffer necessary to respond to life’s happenings rather than impulsively react to them. 

Life is too short for your second string anything. After finding the cut of pants you like the most, the coffee mug you go for first, and socks that actually positively transform your mood, don’t feel the need to regularly tolerate anything less than these if you can help it. Your second favorites are likely only taking up space not only in your cupboard and garage but also in your mind. 

There is a certain buzz that can be attained by simply choosing to be present. Most of the time, we’re not wherever our bodies are or actively taking in experiences as they unfold before us. Even during moments of elevated experience, our minds are time-traveling — considering the possibilities of the future or ruminating about the past. Life-changing moments are witnessed through phone screens instead of being fully savored as they unfold. Purpose-infusing experiences are completely missed due to mental scab-picking. Deciding to let the past remain in the past, the future to come in due time if at all, and to concentrate fully on experiencing the present moment like a live-streaming camera is so rare that doing so can actually bring on a lively rush. Choosing to be fully present can drastically transform your life. 

Happy New Year.

Meta-Awareness: The Exit Door in the Movie Theatre of Your Mind

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you think about it, being brought to tears by a tragedy in a fictional movie should be absolutely ridiculous. Whatever is taking place is fake. The people on the screen are ostensibly lying. Even if the story were true, you don’t know them. Even if you did know them, you aren’t the one experiencing the events of the film. Eventually, the credits roll, the lights come up, and you feel like an idiot when the person seated one row in front of you stands up to see you wipe away a tear that was rolling down your cheek. You walk out of the theatre, get in your car, and go home. 

Part of you was there in the story. For a few moments, there was no separation between what may have been a tragic story and your own emotions. Driving home in your cozy car, the street lights running up the hood to the windshield and over the top remind you that you’re out of there — you’re safe. The only reason why the tragic events of the movie haven’t left you scarred and in need of therapy is because you know that it was just a movie. Once you step out of the theatre and into your car, you’re free from it. 

In many ways, our thoughts are the movies we replay in our minds all day. Like movies, we can hone in on specific parts, analyze individual clips, and even edit the events. Just because your zipper was down during that meeting doesn’t mean everyone noticed it, but in your own edit, the client definitely saw your underwear. Just because your boss forgot to invite you out for happy hour doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate you, but in your edit, he’s planning on firing you next week. 

The reason why we can feel fine and calm after a tragic film while depressed and anxious after our own internal movies is because, unlike the blockbuster, we can’t separate ourselves from our own movies. Well, most of us can’t, anyway. There are some people who can…

Most of us don’t realize that we aren’t our thoughts. For the majority of people, thoughts are synonymous with real life. A good chunk of folks not only never leave the theatre of their mind, but they also don’t even know that there is an exit. Here’s the cool part — there is. 

Here is a quick exercise to show you the noise of your mind: 

First, find a quiet, comfortable spot that allows for good posture. Rest your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Relax your body and try to bring your complete attention to the present moment, using the sensation air entering and exiting your nostrils. Cool air in. Warm air out. 

If you’re like most, your mind will immediately begin to revolt. 

  • What on earth am I doing? 
  • I wonder if anyone is watching me right now. 
  • Did I leave my phone in my car? 
  • How do astronauts keep the windows from fogging up?
  • I wonder what I should have for lunch…

Our minds, especially in the 21st century, have been programmed to be in constant analysis mode. Most of this analysis is unproductive chatter. Neuroscientists have deemed this tone of continuous chatter as the “default mode” — or the “monkey mind” according to many meditation practitioners. This mental state is largely unfocused, unproductive, and alarmingly unchallenged. Most of us don’t challenge it because we don’t know that there is any other mental state…for the most part. 

Take a moment to recall your favorite memories. These experiences can take different forms. A mesmerizing live musical performance. An intimate conversation with close friends. Witnessing a gorgeous sunset with a spouse while on the beach. Taking in the open ocean for the first time. The nail-biting final moments of a close-scored sports game. An unprompted hug from your child. A moment of epiphany. These moments usually have something in common — during those moments, we are fully present. As athletes or musician may say, we are “in the zone” without thought to the past or the future. We are focused — completely hanging on every second as it unfolds. No matter how mundane the activity, the mental state of being fully present is inherently pleasurable. 

Contrast this with our moments of misery. Take a moment to think about times when you’ve experienced anxiety or depression. These were likely times of immense mental fog. While in the throes of sadness or stress, you probably felt wholly unfocused, directionless, and unable to concentrate on tasks in front of you. You likely couldn’t enjoy movies, books, music, or your favorite sports events. Even conversation with friends sounds like overhearing murmurings through a wall due to being lost in thought, stress, pain, or depression. 

Try imagining a time when you were sad, depressed, or anxious without taking on the emotions felt during that time. Simply remember that time or those feelings without applying them to your present state. When you do this, something exciting is happening — you’re now an onlooker — an audience member of your own thoughts. This not only allows you to manage your thoughts better but shows you that you are not your thoughts. This awareness of the separation between you and your thoughts is something psychologists call “metacognition” or “meta-awareness” — thinking about your thoughts. Meditation practitioners call this “mindfulness.” 

An immensely simplified example of meta-awareness or mindfulness is in adjusting how we experience emotions. All too often, we’re quick to identify with our negative emotions. 

  • “I am depressed.” 
  • “I am anxious.” 
  • “I’m stressed out.”
  • “I am confused.” 
  • “I’m in pain.”
  • “I’m worthless.”

Meta-awareness allows us to see these are emotions to be observed and managed. 

  • “I feel depressed.” 
  • “I’m experiencing anxiety.” 
  • “I am experiencing stress.”
  • “I am feeling confused.”
  • “I’m experiencing pain.” 
  • “I’m feeling worthless.” 

While these very slight adjustments can seem insignificant, they allow us to mentally sit up from the patient’s couch and sit in the psychologist’s chair to examine why we may be experiencing negative emotions. Mindfulness allows us to take a third-party look at our thoughts without judgment. When we don’t identify as our depression, our stress, our anger, our pain, or our anxiety, this helps us to let go of negative emotions and to choose consciously positive emotions.

The more you train your mind to be attuned to the present, the more you will begin to see the separation between the film on the screen (your thoughts) and the theatre (your mind). When you can see the “exit” sign in the movie theatre of your negative emotions, you can feel better knowing that you can choose not to identify with those thoughts and feelings and instead choose happiness.

For help finding the door, I put together a simple “One Minute Meditation Tutorial” to help you train your mind to more easily live in the present moment. 

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Forget the Scale: The Life is the Goal

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Looking into the mirror just before I stepped into the shower, I didn’t like what I saw. While not necessarily obese or even experiencing any health complications due to my weight, I simply didn’t like that I didn’t have full control. A protruding dad gut. Love handles. Arms that appeared to be one single piece of meat. Flabby thighs. It was around this time that I decided, for the first time, at age 32, to take control of my body. 

I began a routine of jumping rope — a childhood pastime activity I was excited to start again. It looked fun. Starting wasn’t easy, but as my stamina increased, I actually began to crave jumping rope in my driveway. I added some simple living room exercise intervals — planking, push-ups, wall sits, that kind of thing. Next, I started documenting what I ate, which led to some changes. The exercise and intentional diet began to move the scale a bit…but not as much as I had hoped.

I realize that the scale isn’t the best metric of health. All it can do is tell you how heavy you are — not what that weight consists of. I knew I was losing fat, but I was simultaneously gaining muscle, leaving the scale stuck at 209 pounds for several weeks. 

“If only I could dip below 200,” I would tell myself. 

Suddenly, another voice entered my head.

“What then? You’re good? You’re done? Mission accomplished?”

After a few more weeks, the numbers on the scale crept lower. 207. 205. 203. (Yep, always in odds, for some reason.) Still, I then realized that hitting 199 wasn’t going to feel as momentous as I once hoped. I knew that the “And now what?” voice would return to dash my satisfaction. I needed a new “satisfaction” metric. 

Would it be 190 pounds? What then? 180? I’m 6-foot-two and building muscle — any lighter than that isn’t exactly what I wanted. But what did I want? 

I began to realize that no bodily metric would ever be satisfactory. Worse, hitting that metric would inevitably justify a backslide. Even if I were to work to maintain those ideal body metrics, what would happen as I’d age? Would maintaining a certain body-fat percentage or weight be possible in my 60s? My 70s? My 80s? Anything short of those arbitrary indicators of success would be a continuous disappointment. 

While washing my hands in the bathroom at work one day, I had an epiphany: forget the finish line and concentrate on the race itself. Continuing to run (or more accurately, jump rope) would be the race itself. My goal wouldn’t be a bodily metric, but making a healthy lifestyle second nature.

After a few seconds, my goofy grin in the bathroom mirror reminded me that the water was still running. Still, I was excited to attack this new mindset immediately. I could finally stop looking at the scale and stay focused on the to-do list until a to-do was unnecessary.

This concept wasn’t completely foreign to me. Ever since reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, I had been obsessed with breaking unproductive habits and making good habits second nature. In the past, I’ve written about solidifying my prayer life by adjusting my identity. I didn’t “try to pray more”, but instead decided to simply be a person who prays every day. After a few months of calendar reminders, these notifications started taking up space on my calendar because I hadn’t missed a single day regardless. That time every morning was and still is roped off for prayer. 

“Now, I just have to do that with exercise and eating,” I thought to myself as I left the bathroom. 

Ultimately, my goal now has nothing to do with a scale. It is to make not exercising more of a hassle than my morning workout routine. 

  • To make jumping rope every morning in my driveway as routine as my first cup of coffee….into my 80s.
  • To make my 8.5-minute living room strength training session as intuitive as taking a multivitamin. 
  • To make eating sensibly as lucrative as eating terribly once was. 
  • Where doing all of these things near-daily just feels better than not doing them. 

My goal is ultimately to be an elderly man with a long white beard and still reply to the question of, “Ken, did you exercise and eat decently today?” with “Duh.” 

Aside from Saturdays. All bets are off on Saturdays.

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Defeating “I’ll Be Happy When…” — How to Choose Joy Now

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Recently, I’ve been trying to get my weight under 200 pounds. I haven’t been under 200 pounds since I was about 19 years old (currently 32). Even though my 6’2” frame can make 200 pounds work, I’m getting pretty tired of the spare tire around my waist and my man-boobs. Despite a decent diet where I run a calorie deficit most days as well as jumping rope 10-15 minutes around five-to-six days a week, I can’t seem to get down below about 207 pounds (I got to 205 once, but I think that was just one dehydrated morning). I know, I know — I shouldn’t use my weight as my metric for success. I know I’m building muscle and stamina while also losing weight, resulting in an unchanging scale. But I set this goal for myself. 200 pounds. Now, I’m seeing it as more of a trap.

The “I’ll Be Happy When…” Trap

This is a familiar trap that can easy to fall into — the “I’ll be happy when…(insert some arbitrary metric here)” trap.

  • I’ll be happy when I finally make x-amount-of-money a year.”
  • I’ll be happy when I get x-number of social media followers.”
  • I’ll be happy when I’m driving x-model car.” 
  • I’ll be happy when I get the attention of x-type-of-person.” 
  • I’ll be happy when I move into that x-level neighborhood.” 
  • I’ll be happy when I’m accepted into x-university.” 

Why do we believe we understand what will bring us happiness? How do we know that those people who achieve these metrics are happy? 

Here’s the fun thing: we don’t.

If I were to hit my 200-pound goal, would I hang up my jump rope, crack open a beer, prop my feet up on my coffee table and be content? Maybe for about 15 minutes. By the time that beer goes from frosty to cold, I’m probably already thinking about hitting 190 or 185 pounds. The happiness felt by achieving that goal would be gone by the time I finished that beer. 

How do I attempt to quell discontent? Two ways: 

  • Enjoy the tiniest wins. 
  • Choose happiness by eliminating comparison.

1. Enjoying the Tiniest Wins

There’s no harm in setting goals for yourself. Financial, physical, social, mental, or spiritual — goals help us improve ourselves. They give us something to shoot for. However, a lofty goal can derail our motivation. This is why setting tiny, compiling goals, and enjoying our seemingly tiny wins is a great way to enjoy the process. 

Paraphrasing from a story told by James Clear (author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Habits & Break Bad Ones), he had a friend with a goal to get in shape. Did he set a goal to run 15 minutes a day, deadlift x-amount of weight, or do x-number of squats? Nope. His first goal was to put on his training shoes every day. Yep — every day, he would put on his shoes, lace them up, appreciate what he had done, and then take them off. Once that tiny goal became a habit, he would compile onto it. Soon, he’d put on his shoes, and step out of his front door. He’d take a deep breath, and come right back inside — celebrating his bite-sized progress. After that habit was mastered, he would add sitting in his car. Following that habit, he made a habit of driving to the gym…but not working out. He would just show up at the gym, not touch a piece of equipment, and go home. Mastering that, he would do all that, but only allow himself to work out for five minutes — no more. Once the 5-minute timer would go off, he’d go home. This process went on and on until he developed the habit of putting his shoes, going to the gym, and working out — a process that became second-nature. He ended up hitting his fitness goals and kept going because the habit completely ingrained due to the tiniest of goals — and likely thousands of micro-celebrations. Eventually, the habit became a part of who he was as a person.  Not working out became more difficult than working out for him.  

What was the difference between this style and other goal-setting systems destined for failure? Every day was a win — a micro-win, but a win none the less. A lofty fitness goal may feel out of reach, but can you put on your shoes? Of course you can. Giving yourself a high-five for even microscopic steps in the right direction make the process even more enjoyable. When you see progress every day, your motivation remains more consistent and increase the likelihood of you sticking with it. 

Making Tiny Tweaks

Though my weight scale has been my arbitrary metric, my jump rope workout gets tightened most every time I pick up my rope. Whether I reduce rest periods, extend the length of my rounds, or add rounds to my workout, progress has been made every workout — regardless of what the scale reads. I’m not saying this to brag, but really just to reaffirm for myself — Ken, forget the scale — you’re making progress! Enjoy it! (Sorry for venting in the middle of this piece.) 

Not Moving Forward Beats Moving Backward

Even simply remaining consistent is reason for celebration. My workout could remain stagnant, but as long as I keep doing it, it’s still moving in the right direction. You may not be adding a higher dollar amount into savings each paycheck, but adding the same amount is still adding to your savings. We (myself included) often don’t consider consistency to be progression. If your actions are in alignment with the nature of your goals, you’re always moving forward. 

Spirit-booster hack: If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your alleged lack of progression, close your eyes and imagine where you were before you even thought to have a goal. Construct a mental montage of how far you’ve come. Even the formulation of a plan to achieve a goal is an accomplishment. 

2. Choosing Happiness by Eliminating Comparison

We’ve heard that money can’t buy happiness, but most of us don’t believe it. Well, it’s true. According to two Princeton University researchers (one of whom is a Nobel laureate), the optimal “happiness income” is right at about $75,000 a year. Though those surveyed said that their overall feeling of success went up with their income, $75,000 “…is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to what matter most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.” 

A real-world proof of this that I turn to is the tragically short life of rapper Mac Miller. Though an overnight sensation with world-wide acclaim and net worth in the tens of millions, Miller’s own lyrics tell a tale of utter woe. 

“You never told me being rich was so lonely. 

Nobody know me. 

Oh well. 

Hard to complain from this five-star hotel.”

  • “Small World”

Miller was found dead in his home having overdosed on a deadly cocktail of fentanyl, alcohol, and cocaine. Other tales of the uber-rich being institutionalized for drug use and psychological treatment should be an indicator that money can merely pay the rehab bill.

Whenever I feel the tug of opulence, I just remember: a used Toyota is still more reliable than a new Jaguar, Range Rover, or Mercedes Benz.

The Validation Rollercoaster: Compulsive Social Media Use

While cutting things out of my life that caused undue stress, one of these was the compulsive use of social media. Whenever presented a free moment, I’d sedate my boredom with social media scrolling. Even though I was using it to relax, I would find myself more anxious with each checkup. Whether I was trying to decipher the root of drama in someone’s “vaguebook” post, scraping off the venom of a politically-charged rant, or comparing my own weekend to acquaintances’ latest toes-in-the-sand getaway, I felt a little more deflated each time I tapped on the screen. Still, I was addicted to the feedback loop that comes with posting. I would post what I thought was a pleasant image or an interesting thought and anxiously await the response. Some posts received huge acclaim. Some received little to none. Riding the validation rollercoaster left me feeling nauseous and exhausted, but my seatbelt wouldn’t come loose. It wasn’t until I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Like in a Noisy World by Cal Newport that I started to see what was causing my dependence on these platforms. 

“Man, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t even be on Facebook.” I remember thinking to myself while turning the pages. 

Realizing that I had lost control of my own freedom “to be or not to be” on social media, I shut down my Facebook profile and deleted the Instagram app from my phone — a move that has not only freed up hours of time to spend with people and pursue enriching hobbies, but has also increased the color and chemistry of every conversation I have. No longer are meetups a distracted retelling of each other’s timelines, but are instead vibrant reconnections that make me feel alive. 

Comparison: Real Cause of Social Media Blues

My decreased time on social media has also reduced the amount by which I compare my life with severely manicured postings of others. I’m no longer weighing their experiences and luxuries against my own. I feel more capable of appreciating every tiny blessing in my life, relishing it without comparison. I’m not comparing my life to the cropped and filtered pictures from an acquaintance’s family trip to snorkel off the coast of an exotic island. Instead, I’m in fatherly ecstasy as I watch my one-year-old son excitedly splash in a $12 baby pool. Whether we’re across the world or in my driveway, my joy doesn’t require comparison in order to thoroughly experienced.


Stop your “I’ll be happy when I get to go on that kind of vacation.”

Stop your “I’ll be happy when I hit 200 pounds” (ok, that one was directed at me).
Defeating the curse of “I’ll be happy when…” is often merely choosing to be fully present in the moment. Celebrate every tiny win or blessing. Don’t compare your joy to anyone else’s. Happiness is worth choosing right now. 

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