31 Chapters
Medium 9781605098869

10 Make Every Day Count

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

OUR DAYS ARE numbered. No matter how hard we try to prolong our time on earth, the reality is that we are mere mortals and will not live forever. Although we may fantasize about what it would be like to relive the past, ultimately we must figure out how to make the most of our time while we are here in the living present. Each moment we waste is a potential source of regret and literally time lost.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we passengers on a journey through time or are we explorers on a mission of discovery?” In the latter case, each day is an opportunity to embrace life as active participants rather than as casual observers. Instead of being aloof and detached, we must get engaged and make every day count. Likewise, as opposed to remaining ambivalent, we need to be deliberate about how we spend our time. Sitting on the sidelines and watching life from afar will only result in apathy and regret.

Several summers ago my grandmother, whom we called Gigi, passed away after a long and happy life of ninety-one years. No one knew how to make every day count like Gigi. Until the very end, she was a world traveler, a political activist, and a philanthropist. She had a true zest for life and loved to laugh. She was also the first to help extended family members in need. She was playful, funny, beautiful, thoughtful, caring, and kind. She came to every family event near or far and was the undisputed life of the party. At 6:00 a.m. each day she was singing and already on the go, prepared to leave her mark on the world. No day was finished until Gigi had fully lived it.

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5 Avoid Victimitis

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

WHEN I WAS in eighth grade I joined a youth group, and at our first event we had a speaker who introduced us to the PLUM game. PLUM stood for “Poor Little Unfortunate Me,” and the speaker’s contention was that most of us knew how to play this game all too well, especially when we were faced with tough challenges or if things didn’t go our way. He explained that when people play the PLUM game, they take little or no responsibility for their own situation. Instead they pretend to be victims when actually they’re just whining about their regrets—for example, how they don’t get what they rightfully deserve, how things never go their way, how they always get the short end of the stick, and all the other ways that life has somehow cheated them.

He called this pattern of behavior “victimitis” and was quick to make the distinction between it and being a true victim: “People with this condition actually have the ability to change their circumstances,” he said, “but somehow they convince themselves that they can’t.” Next he had us practice whining “Poor little unfortunate me!” in our most nasal voice possible. This way he could be certain we understood just how annoying people with this disease sounded. Then he gave some examples of the regrets that adolescents with victimitis whine about, most of which rang true for our group: “I got a bad grade on the test …” “I didn’t make the team …” “I didn’t get the part I wanted in the play …” “I’m not popular …” “My parents are on my case …” “I’m grounded for a week …” After each example we had to shout “Poor little unfortunate me!” The exercise was both invigorating and revealing, and it still sticks with me today.

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17 Be True to What You Value Most

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

WE JUGGLE A lot of balls in life. But when we have too many balls in the air, some of them are bound to drop. For example, a few years ago I missed my son and daughter’s first day of school because I was out of town on business. Up until that point, I had been there every year for our family’s first-day-of-school tradition of getting up early with the kids, cooking a big breakfast for them, and then taking their pictures outside in the front yard. I had always put this date on my calendar way in advance, but this time I had to attend a client event that couldn’t be rescheduled.

If you’re a working parent, it’s unrealistic to think that you will be present for every special moment in your child’s life. However, one specific commitment I made to myself was that I’d always be there for my kids’ first day of school. Telling them that I wasn’t going to make it this time was heartbreaking for me. While I knew I had let them down, more than anything I was upset because I had let myself down.

No matter how many balls you have in the air, you have to put what’s most important first if you want to live your life with no more regrets. This experience was a pointed reminder for me, and as a result, I made a personal commitment to focus more on prioritizing my family, my marriage, and my quality of life. While it is certainly difficult at times, thus far I’ve curtailed my work with clients that requires frequent travel and have been transforming my business to one that is primarily done electronically, locally, and remotely.

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11 Freeze the Moment

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

LIFE IS FULL of magical moments, not all of which can be photographed, videotaped, or digitized. One way to preserve special experiences that you’d regret forgetting is to “freeze the moment”—to take an intentional mental picture of everything you see, hear, sense, and feel at a particular juncture in time and then permanently commit it to memory. A “freezable moment” is the split second of joy, beauty, laughter, irony, celebration, mystery, intrigue, exhilaration, wonder, or grace that makes us feel at one with the universe. It’s the flash of inspiration that reassures us life is worth living if only to have been alive at that exact instant.

Some of my top freezable moments include the first time I saw the incredible Pacific sunset, the moment I met my future wife, the day I got accepted into graduate school and my grandpa told me how proud he was of me, the many times I’ve laughed so hard with my best friends that my stomach ached, and the afternoon I watched the Grateful Dead play one of the most amazing sets ever at Frost Amphitheater.

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18 Pursue Your Happiness

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

WE ALL HAVE a spot in life—a place in the world where we feel happier and more energized. When you’re at your spot, you know it because it’s where you feel at your very best just for the mere fact of being there. That was the case when I first stepped foot in San Diego at the age of twenty-one. The weather was perfect, the beaches were beautiful, and the vibe was one I can only describe as “surfer casual”—shorts and flip-flops were permanently in fashion and considered acceptable attire everywhere I went. As an added bonus, snow skiing was just two hours away. You could literally be on the slopes and then back in the waves on the same day! I kept thinking to myself, I hope I live here one day.

Sure enough, I came out to San Diego to pursue my happiness. It was there that I finished my formal education, and during that time I got married, started my career, and spent unforgettable times with friends. Both my wife and I felt like we had found our spot. But only after we moved away did this realization became clearer. While moving allowed us to focus on our professional goals and get back on our feet financially, we continually found ourselves yearning to be back in California.

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