Sweet Emotion

A while back, I greatly expanded my twitter feed. I did this with an expectation that I’d be triggered. The world didn’t disappoint me and I was triggered by God ripping into someone…

Screenshot 2014-09-27 13.43.27

It’s been a while since I was triggered to the point of replying to a stranger so I looked inward at the nature, and source, of my reaction.

Here’s what I noticed:

The essence of powerful emotion is energy. Whether the emotion is anger, envy, grief, fear, love or joy… they are all just energy. It’s up to me to “tag” the energy and classify the emotion – my tagging is a function of culture, context and habit.

The energy has a clear physical signature in my body. I have an opportunity to “feel” an emotion before it overtakes my decision making.

When I experience these emotions they are triggered by something touching the raw nerve of personal weakness.

All strong emotion is an opportunity to discover something about myself, as creator of my emotional experience.

Once I understand the above, I can work at the margin of my emotional life to shape my understanding and experience.

Situations that prompt me to automatically respond are extremely valuable – those are my raw nerves. However, because I was emotionally out-of-control, I need time to process.

My response (to God) was how I settle myself down when I’m out of control. Each One A Holy Soul – is a reminder to myself that people that trigger me are about me, not them.

Those five words distract my mind long enough so I slow my reaction time. My internal life might be unpleasant but, hopefully, I react far less often. Not-reaction avoids the human tendency to pass along discomfort.

Later, I can think about my reaction and try to break-the-chain in my own emotional life, which improves my capacity to achieve serenity.


Some principles that I’ve found helpful:

  • Channel the energy of strong emotions into positive action – as a middle-aged man, I’m grateful for the extra energy. I need it!
  • Remember it is all about me, my mind is classifying my experiences into emotional states
  • Remember it is all about me, pain is triggered by my mind touching my own weaknesses. Own my weaknesses.
  • Change at the margin
  • Don’t act on anger

Be brave.

Less Misery, More Efficiency

It’s been over 1,000 days since I realized that my relationship with email had to change. Not only was my inbox making me miserable, it was consuming my life.

What follows is a summary of how I spent three years changing my workflow and improving my life.

#1 – Reduce the fire hose of inbound flow by:

  • Using inbox-zero techniques
  • Making your default reply not more than two words long. For example, “got it” or “ok” work well. What works even better is my preferred response – “can I delete this message now.” Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete
  • If you’re in management at company that doesn’t use a threaded email client then you should be fired. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then switch yourself, and your company, to gmail.
  • Let others reply for you – wait a day before you dive into mass email threads.
  • Unsubscribe as much as possible – if it’s important then you’ll track it down. Once you unsubscribe to everything, you’ll realized that most of the internet is waste and noise.

Recognize that your subconscious mind is terrified of being out of the loop!

Until you remove it, you won’t see how the noise in your life is ruining your capacity for effective thought AND making you miserable.

If you can’t see it in yourself then look around. Most people are not informed – they are filled with useless, and ever changing, noise.

If you find that describes everyone around you then what makes you think you’re different? This was a powerful, and painful, realization for me. Email, social networks and constant connectivity were making me miserable AND clueless.

Once you’ve created the space to think…

2 – Improve your ability to retain information by:

  • Take one slow breath (in and out) before reading any email that you can’t delete, or unsubscribe.
  • Take two slow breaths before any reply that will extend beyond one line – you’ll find your composition is better.
  • Give the sender what they need and no more.
  • Take one slow breath and re-read every reply before you send it. You’ll be amazed at the number of type-os you catch.
  • Take an honest inventory of your productivity across an entire week. At best, you’ll be productive for three hours per day (broken up into 2-4 segments). Once you realize that you’re spinning your wheels go for a walk.

If you think the above sounds hokey then pay attention to how much you hold your breath when working, driving and waiting in line.

Walking is useful to consider, and compose, your best work.

3 – When you must do your best work:

  • Exercise early
  • Eat a healthy meal
  • Wear earplugs
  • Close the door
  • Shut the internet browser
  • Write it out by hand
  • Review when you transcribe it into your computer

Let’s review…

A – reduce the fire hose of inbound to create space for thoughts that matter and reduce the misery you’re experiencing with email

B – stop holding your breath and triggering irritation with your current habits

C – with a less cluttered mind, create a routine for producing high-quality work

The above will make you FAR more happy with your work life and this will make you a better employee, spouse, parent and person.

Living behind a screen, and the back-and-forth nature of email, reinforces habits of inefficiency. Once you start to increase your own free time, be proactive about not wasting other people’s time.

  • Schedule a telephone call for any email that will require more than three replies
  • When you set a call, specify two choices and a preference
  • In advance, send a written agenda
  • Take notes
  • Write (or review) a summary of the call

What I tell myself:

  • It’s incredibly hard to say no and reduce the background noise in our lives.
  • Keep chipping away.
  • Change is difficult but worth it.

Start to pay attention how your current work habits are making you feel.

Even if you are the only person that changes, it’s still worth it.

Be grateful that you had the courage to change!

Creeping Clutter

A year ago, I laid out a vision for my life at 45. Four months later, I had made significant progress and shared that process with an outline of What To Keep.

With ten months until I’m 45, I find myself slipping backwards.

  • Twitter followers creeping up
  • Constantly checking Twitter #connect for validation/approval
  • Checking Twitter #discover as often as I used to check Google News

Perhaps I have seasonal dissatisfaction disorder and this will clear once I’m able to ride more.

Sounds like I need to:

  • Get Twitter off my phone
  • Check Twitter every other hour (now to April); then every 4th hour (May); then 2x per day (June)
  • Declutter the seven spaces where I spend most of my time (office, kitchen, living room, bedroom, car, garage and closet).

Perhaps I’m over-sensitive to the fatigue I experience from clutter and kid noise. Just in case, I actioned #1 and scheduled #3 across the next week.

Clutter seems to require constant clearing!

Cyber Strikeout

Consider why you are on the internet.

I’m on because it is an effective way for me to share my writing, communicate quickly and learn. I need to remember these reasons because the internet, like certain people, can be an emotional drain.

In cyberspace, I operate a one-strike-you’re-out policy. When I come across a source of discord, I block it. Following a decade of pruning, this only happens once a quarter and keeps my mind free of clutter.

I’ve noticed that many of my pals take Facebook quite seriously, with posts and comments impacting their mood. I’ve heard…

  • Did you see that…
  • I can’t believe that…
  • Why did they…
  • I wish I had less friends…

Most people struggle to break free from tabloid journalism – we’re all hardwired for voyeurism. The way I started was to eliminate one site for a month – I started with a chat forum that I used to check hourly. It was tough but I told myself that I only needed to last 28 days.

Because our brains are wired to notice negatives, more than positives, it only takes a small trigger to adversely impact our mood. Within your online life, it might be worth considering your strike rate.

How often does a site, a person or a situation trigger negative thoughts?

In my life, Facebook and chat forums had a strike rate of once per login. It was easy to see an immediate benefit from breaking their hold on me.

Similarly, because they have a low value-to-noise ratio, there aren’t comments sections on any of my websites. My sites exist to share useful information and free my mind via publishing.

Leaving a habit behind forever can seem daunting. As humans, we’re very attached to our habits, even those that hurt us (smoking, abusive relationships, toxic people, media sources that generate fear & anger).

Take a break for 28 days then ask yourself if you miss it.

This habit will change your life.