Life has been amazing since I unexpectedly quit my job last week. I’ve become fascinated with every moment; in love with life. My level of contentment and happiness has grown, relationships have improved, and there is a sense of deeper fulfillment behind all my actions.
I’ve never been happier. Or more exhausted. Now that a week has gone by and I finally have a moment to collect my thoughts, I felt that it’s time to reflect on the state of happiness – both desirable and less desirable.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned bout happiness this past week is…
Happiness Cranked to 11 is Impossible to Sustain
The first few days were a total rush of freedom and possibility. I could not have imagined such bliss. So… How is that a problem?
My brain simply would not shut off. (On account of all the freedom and possibility I was experiencing;) I was enthralled with each moment, exuberant in every decision, and relentless in building opportunities to create (which is my Ultimate Mission this year).
But I was having trouble sleeping because of it. I was over stimulated – another stressor. I would sometimes forget to eat because I was simply lost in my work and hours would fly like a rocket ship at light speed. Awesome, but still a form of stress.
My brain was moving faster than my body could keep up and I was pushing myself hard physically and mentally. While I got a lot of hustle in, I’m fortunate to realize this early on and am building time into the day to relax and decompress.
Yesterday was a great example. Had a few days of poor sleep, some tight deadlines I was feeling behind on, and a social invitation in the evening. My resting pulse was hovering at 68 beats per minute (my normal pulse is low 50’s, high 40’s). I was stressed.
I had to adult. I cut work early, knowing I could give more of myself to these projects if I was rested and de-stressed. I didn’t go to the social thing (forgive me, Brian!) and was in bed by 8:45pm. Slept for 10 glorious hours, leapedout of bed, and proceeded to kick the shit out of all the things throughout the day (figuratively speaking).
Recognizing that crucial time when you need to take a step back, evaluatewhere you are, andmake decisionsthat help you provide the best value you can to the world is the biggest lesson I’ve learned this week, and would be what I consider “good adulting.”
I just made what might be one of the most adult (or reckless, depending on who you ask) decisions of my life. Yesterday, I quit my job. Today, I’m faced with both the magnitude of having unlimited freedom to literally do whatever the fuck I want and the uncertainty of not having a stable source of income. Surreal and spooky, all at the same time.
I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long while, though I never thought it would be *today*. Doing work that’s not aligned with my core values, not stimulating enough, lacking creative expression, doesn’t have an impact, or leaves me unfulfilled is antithetical to who I am as a person. Yet I still willingly made that choice for the last two and a half years.
As a result of my choice, I became a person who was miserable and unhappy, biding their time for some lucky break to whisk them away to a better future. I can’t believe I was that naive! I was too scared about financial security and stability to do anything about it and clung desperately to the hope of a brighter future while despising the present. (Do not do this to yourself, ever!)
I thought I was smarter than that, but I refuse to beat myself up. I’ve learned some very valuable lessons, maybe some of the most important lessons of my entire life, and I finally acted on them.
So what happened? What made me suddenly snap and say, ‘fuck it, I’m outz,’ to take an uncertain (and probably more difficult) road? A Molotov cocktail of things; a mismatch in individual vs. organizational culture, unfulfilling work, a feeling of enmity, and an unfortunate ‘he said, she said’ incident (mostly due to my big fucking mouth and not giving a shit about speaking my mind;).
That we have the freedomto say, express,create whatever we want is one of my most treasured values. It was sparked by angsty teenage punk ideals, reinforced by the military and what it stands to protect, and now embraced wholly by an unemployed-but-very-fit-and-handsome-pot-head-digital-jack-of-all-trades. And now, Master of One.
Here’s what happened: I was called in to our HR department to discuss this ‘someone heard…’ incident. Discuss probably isn’t the best term. Reprimand paints a more accurate picture. My supervisor went through a list of things that were heard in a private conversation and I awkwardly began to explain myself when I realized something – I don’t have to choose this. This is not how I want to spend my life. This is not the environment I can thrive in. I am giving up my dreamto be chastised like a child in the principle’s office for $20.60 an hour. Shame on you, Chris Browning. Shame. On. You.
So I stopped explaining and told them I was leaving. As I was gathering my things, the HR rep (who is a very sweet person), asked if I would come back into the office to discuss the situation. I told her I was resolute on leaving, so she advised that I speak with her about departing benefits, which seemed sensible and I obliged. I left that office with a sense of weightlessness off my shoulders. It was a feeling of freedom I had not experienced since I got out of the military, but tinged with the underlying dread that I am now without income. Plot twist!
(As a side note, I’m extremely grateful for her suggestion. By following her advice, I received a payout that will essentially float me for at least three months if I make smart choices.)
((As a second side note, I just remembered that the quote of the day on our weekly team meeting agenda yesterday was, “Trust the plot twists in your life.” Coincidental, but relevant;))
If it’s one thing this last year has taught me, it’s this – a brighter future will not come peeking through your windows like a warm and playful sunrise, beckoning you to come along for an adventure. No sir. If you want to reach your dreams, you have to show up. You have to reach, far. You have to make hard decisions, big FATscary decisions that will move you closer to that dream.
I’ve learned this lesson from the multitude of guests we’ve had on the Life In Focus podcast. I’ve written before about why I don’t say much when we have guests on, and it’s because more than anything I love to sit back and listen to these pockets of truly amazing people living out their dream every single day, despite fear, hardship, and uncertainty. I listen, and I think to myself, “some day that’s going to be me. Some day I’m going to pursue my dream. But not yet…”
Then the podcast would end. I’d go home with the buzz from hearing such a compelling story, filled with big, exciting dreams, then wake up the next day to go back to the work I dreaded and lament all that I was giving up. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Today is different. Today, I am faced with a clean slate and a fresh new challenge. Today, I can do anything I want – I can climb a mountain, go to the beach, ride my bike. Today, I can spend as much time as I want creating beautiful designs, learning new skills, taking gorgeous pictures, filming sharp video, writing verbose blog posts. Today, I can spend all my efforts pursuing my dream and there is no one, no one, who can say fuckall about it.
Today, I get to see what I can actually achieve. No excuses. No hiding. No bullshit.
Today, I choose to face the biggest fear keeping me from reaching my dream. And I am going to kick that fear straight in the dick, because that’s how I adult.
#adultingv; the act of being and adult and doing adult-like things.
#adultern; one who adults (pl. #adulterer) We’re taking this word back.
I like to spend my Sunday evenings reflecting on (and celebrating;) the past week’s accomplishments. It’s a new thing I’ve been doing and it’s done wonders for my clarity, focus, level of contentment, and sense of fulfillment. I feel fucking rad, like a completely different human. One brimming with energy, purpose, and determination. All I need now is the ability of flight and to shoot laser beams out of my eyes and I am on my way to save the world.
Looking at this past week (actually, this whole month) has made me extremely grateful for many things, and I wanted to take a moment to recognize some of them. Writing them down gives them power; an anchor to remind myself of the brilliant light at the end of the tunnel should I find that my eyes start to dim.
I’m grateful to have gained a much clearer understanding (insight!) of my values and have started using them twofold: as a driver to reach my dream of building more creative freedom in my life and as a lens through which I can view my actions as expressions of those values.
That understanding has been pretty fucking clutch during what was a very challenging last two months. I’ll spare you the juicy details, but it was during this perfect twisted storm of Murphy’s Law that I came to this understanding. It was not pleasant, but it WAS deeply rewarding and I am better for it.
The implications are this: by having a clearer idea of what it is I want out of life and the values that surround it, my actions and choices have been more deliberate, focused, and fulfilling. While I am not currently living the fullest expression of that dream, I can proudly tell you that I am living the very best expression of it that I can with my current resources and limitations.
I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this feels. It is a deep, almost euphoric contentment that’s difficult to describe. My ability to create and produce has never been higher. I have limitless energy and can’t be stopped (because I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!). Which is a fantastic segue for something else I’m grateful for: my health and fitness.
I’ve had some physical challenges this past month stemming from my back and a very pissed-off SI joint. Training simply wasn’t an option, which was terribly frustrating because the physical expression of one’s body is tremendously important for both body and mind.
I made the adult decision and let my body heal. Now that I’m back in the gym, moving well, I feel incredible. Strong. Powerful! That process made me reflect on the resiliency of our bodies (and it’s delicacies), and how much good habits and lifestyle choices helped carry me when my mental state was more grey turbulent water than a clear reflective pool.
I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to build your lifestyle around the things that are most meaningful to you. Weaving these threads into the fabric of your daily life makes those fibers a hundred times stronger. They will hold you together when a few strands start to fray and wear.
Building a lifestyle that supports and embraces your core values makes it much easier to make decisions that are in line with it. It is a lens through which you can analyze your options and make the decision that’s right for you (to take a cue from the Life In Focus playbook – which is where many of my revelations have stemmed from;).
The last (but certainly not least) thing that I am grateful for are the incredible relationships I have with hands down the best human beings on this motherfucking planet. Over the past month and a half, some relationships that were very important to me have shifted in a way I would not have preferred and that was something I struggled to deal with. But through these changes, I realized the importance of surrounding yourself with people that share important core values that align with your own.
So while some relationships withered, others have grown and blossomed. And it made me realized the immense joy that comes from cultivating these relationships and the deep satisfaction they yield. Few things are as energizing as spending time with the people you care about most (and care about you). To these people, and you know who you are, I am eternally grateful for the love and support you’ve shown me. Not just for that, though, but just for being who you are. Thank you! The world is better because you are in it.
There are a great and many thing that I am grateful for, but these are most important. I feel blessed and joyful having these things, more than anything else in the world. Writing them down feels good, really good! So my challenge to you would be to write down the things YOU are grateful for, today. You need not share them with the world (though I would be especially stoked to read them), but think about what you’re truly grateful for and give those things some POWER! Laser eyes optional.
A perky mid-morning sun peaks gleefully through the blinds, a herald of the day to come. Mine started with a generous bowl of coffee laden with butter from the happiest cows in Ireland and coconut oil, blended to frothy perfection.
The early day’s air was cool and refreshing, like the bite from a chilled apple. The sun, sweet as sugar, peeped low over rooftops and sparsely leafed trees as I walked out to my car and headed to my first destination.
A visit to the Chang/Wall household is like being sucked into the funnest tornado filled with adorable laughing children, giant comically-needy dogs, and frenetic parents occasionally yelling things like, “Rhys, stop doing backflips and put your pajamas away!” It is a chaos I absolutely adore.
Leon opens the door while using one leg to keep Julius, the squirming beast of a golden doodle, from breaking through and smothering me with saliva laden kisses. I’m greeted by shouts from Leon, “Julius, ousta! Ousta!” with the kids in the background chanting my name, “Chris! Chris!”, bouncing up and down like little tribal pygmies. I approve: mornings should always start like this.
Alessandra and I leave to pick up some potentially useful podcasting equipment, but it turns out to be a bust. The conversation, however, was good (per usual), and I’m becoming more and more excited for her to release her new product. I felt grateful that she trusts me to help her with it and asked me to help make a logo for it. She also asked if we’d be interested in shooting an enrollment video for the charter school she’s a part of. Without a doubt I want to do it, even if we have a lot on our plates already.
Leaving one whirlwind for the next, I head to Erik’s to prep for the next meeting of ideas. We’re both excited about our project with Theresa and went over the last details of the storyboard we’re about to pitch to her and Per. It was a little scary, sharing what we came up with for a project that is so important to someone. You never know how someone is going to judge the ideas you’ve come up with. Is it good enough? Does it hit the mark? Will they love it? Hate it?
These thoughts are put to rest. Theresa and Per are always a joy to be around, and they liked the storyboard. We did our best to try and deliver the feel of her book in a one minute trailer, and I’m deeply satisfied with the story we’ve crafted. They gave us their honest feedback and we made changes to it that I think will make the overall product much better. Collaborative creative work is one of my favorite fuels to burn, my drug of choice. That I get to work on this incredible story for an outstanding person with my bestest of friends – I start tremeblimg at the thought of how good I have it!
If that wasn’t having your cake and shoving it down your throat without even chewing it, she also asked for our help in filming some other projects in the near future. It was surreal; as she talked about it the scene played out in my mind. The venue, the shots, the lighting, the look and feel – an energy was flowing through me, a deep desire to capture and share this message with other people in a beautiful, meaningful way.
Erik and I rode our bikes back to his place, chatting and trying to not get murdered by North Park hipsters driving home from artisanal brunches. Feeling bold, I bounced a thought off him that I’ve been entertaining. If we’ve been able to get as much work as we have without looking for it, what would happen if we did? What would happen if I quit my job and focused efforts solely on creating content for truly awesome people? That would the be the most fantastic dream come true. The thought ran through me like euphoric bolt of lightning – it is possible. “Your dream is possible.” That’s what I heard.
I went home, giddy and jubilant. I couldn’t believe it! Today I got a taste of the dream. Until a realization washed over me like a slow and powerful wave – today I actually lived the dream. Today, everything I did was an expression of what that means. From the people I spent my time with to projects I worked on, every single thing I did was in support of that wonderful, glowing dream. And that feeling, when I stopped to recognize it, was the deepest and most gratifying contentment.
This past year has been a whirlwind. While I’m not making New Year’s resolutions just yet, I think it’s apropos to reflect on everything that’s happened thus far and give thanks. It’s been a fucking journey, to be sure. Full of ups and downs. And for awhile I made myself pretty miserable as I struggled to find some sort of outlet to vent my desire to make something good.
So I’m thankful for photography. In taking pictures, I’ve found a way to express myself and create that resonates from deep within and is extremely fulfilling. (more…)