Practice Being Present and 7 Other Lessons I’ve Learned

practice being presentA while back, when I was still living in Nevada, I came out to S.F. to visit some blog friends and see Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta do a panel on Zen living.

This was the first time I’d been alone in San Francisco in… well… forever. And something about the experience transformed me, it was just a sense of freedom I had never felt before, riding the BART, walking everywhere and spending time alone (but happy).

I’d always been dependent on other people up until that point in my life – and that first solitary visit to San Francisco flipped a switch and forever changed a very important part of my inner working.

Anyways, back to the panel, so I’m sitting in this tea spot called Samovar (which I highly recommend to all tea elitists – a group I’m sadly not part of since I consider Starbucks good tea) with Ev and Corbett. I don’t remember much of the whole thing except something Ferriss said, which was “practice being present”.

Now I’m educated enough to know he’s not the first person to coin this term, but he was the first person I’d heard it from and it made a serious impact. For much of my life before that I had tried to escape “being present” by filling time full of activities, people and relationships.

Now, almost a year later, I’m living in San Francisco and I’m practicing being present almost daily. It’s really changed my life, in business and personal ways. Because of this I thought I’d share with you my experiences over the last year which hopefully will inspire you to take a leap and change your life for the better as well… I broke my experiences and lessons learned into 7 specific thoughts, which I’ll share right… about… now…

1. The Quest for the Self Made Man

First off, I say “self made man” because that’s the old standby – insert woman if you like. I’m a chick (a fact some of you may or may not know) and I’m not planning on gender bending anytime soon. I just like saying “I’m off to become a self made man” because it sounds better.

A self made man (or woman) is the ultimate thing to strive for in life (in my book). It’s someone who has achieved the ultimate honor of building a life worth living and has reached financial, intellectual and emotional independence.

I think becoming a self made man is possible whether you are a dairy farmer or an aspiring internet tycoon. Being self made is knowing that someone else can’t rip away what’s near and dear to you with a fell swoop (think losing one’s job out of nowhere). It’s also knowing that another person can’t take away your happiness on a whim (think the person who cries they’re ruined after a lover leaves).

Being self made is having the presence of mind and spirit to know what you want and to go after it. It’s never wanting to be the debtor in a relationship and instead it’s summed up in the desire to be the captain of your own ship.

I’m on journey to become self made and this blog is a diary ripped straight from those experiences… it’s my highest calling.

Becoming self made is not for everyone, in fact I’d say it’s for a small majority – but those who it is for know it deep down in their hearts and I freakin’ love those kinds of people.

Suggested reading: Atlas Shrugged

2. I Want to Do, Not Teach

I wrote about this a little while ago, a revelation that I’d had after a negative email I received from a snarky reader, you can see that post here.

In the early days of this blog I had bought into the idea that if you wrote a blog you had to write from a place of authority – the whole “guru” load of hogwash. In retrospect it only shows my immaturity – but ‘eh, tis life…

So in the beginning I wrote posts like “The X ways you should market Y” or whatever, but in the more recent past I’ve completely shed the idea that I’m “teaching” anything here.

I say this because teaching isn’t the goal for me, instead doing and learning throughout the process is. I’m absorbing information at such a rapid curve I’m not in a place to teach anything – and I probably will never be since I never plan on diffusing my voracious appetite for knowledge.

So instead I’ve realized that it’s much better to write a blog from the point of view of a written documentary of one’s own experience doing X.

I am building a business, I am trying to become self made and I have my heart set on the goal of building a business that is worth at least $100 million dollars – a ridiculously large sum in many people’s eyes – a small sum in otheres – but it’s my goal.

Whether you agree with it or not, that’s not for you to decide, instead I’ll document my progress or lack there of on this blog and you can cheer me or boo me depending on your fancy.

I want to do, not teach… but you’re more than welcome to come along for the ride and take from my experiences what you can.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths – Walt Disney

3. There is Only One Ring

Remember the Lord of the Rings? Whether you read it or watched it (I did both unfortunately) you can’t forgot the plot. One guy was chasing down a ring – there was only one ring and it was the compulsive focus of his little hobbit journey. In the end it turned out he had to destroy the ring, but he got the job done, because he had a solitary focus.

I never much liked Lord of the Rings until I realized how aptly it applied to my business pursuits. There can only be one ring when it comes to the focus you need to achieve big goals – this is something I’ve learned the hard way.

If you’re chasing a big (or even little) goal and get only one thing from this post I would hope it’s this: focus on one thing and do it spectacularly. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to do it forever, instead it just will give you a huge leg up on your competition and will greatly increase your learning curve if you focus on one goal with insane persistence and intent.

I’ve tried both ways, I had 7 projects running at once (which I documented in my early, “foolish” days on this blog) and now I have just one focus – building Zirtual into a great company. I wish I could go back and slap myself when I was juggling several things at once – I would be so much further ahead right now. Learn from my mistakes.

One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular – Tony Robbins

4. Work Hard, Play Hard

Another thing I’ve come to realize only since I’ve been in San Francisco, hard work deserves – dare I say, needs – hard play, lest the delicate balance crumble.

When I say “playing hard” I don’t mean an aggressive game of kickball (though that does sound fun) nor do I mean getting wasted and doing lines of coke. Instead I mean if you work really hard you need to also invest time in rewarding yourself through leisure activities, hanging with friends/family and exploring your world.

If you don’t you will burn out.

Also the hard work, hard play balance is a particularly rewarding one. You feel fulfilled by the amount of work you get done, then you get rewarded by the amount of “play” you get in after work and/or on the weekends/trips.

In Vegas people followed the hard work, bad play model which is a recipe for rehab and broken lives. This model is when you work hard but also party ridiculously hard and live a stupid, destructive life.

This is not what I’m suggesting. Instead playing hard could be something as simple as taking a 5 mile walking tour of your city (which I did the other day and it was lovely) or something as complex as jetting off to Paris for the weekend or something as fun as having a few drinks and getting silly with your friends one night.

Hard work, hard play makes Maren a happy, well balanced girl.

Suggested reading: The San Francisco Success Secret spoiler alert, I wrote it.

5. You’ve Got to Believe

In something. It’s essential (I believe) to really living an incredible and rewarding life. I have a deep faith in God that pushes me through tough times, I also have a strong belief in the human abilities of logic, reason and innovation and I believe in and trust my family and close friends.

I also believe deeply, strongly, almost religiously in the path I’m on and the company I’m building – without the belief that I’m doing what I was “meant” to do I couldn’t push through the hard times.

A good question to seriously ask yourself is not what drives you but what you believe in? If it’s nothing, then maybe you have some searching to do. If you know then don’t let anyone assuage you in your worthwhile convictions.

Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail – Charles F. Kettering

6. Everything is a Value Exchange

Another Ayn Rand-ism, who you may have guessed is one of my all time favorite authors. A value exchange has nothing to do with money or material success, but it does have a great deal to do with leading a fulfilling life.

Look at some examples:

You move to a new city and you want to make friends. The normal thing to do would be to think “how can I get them to like me” (external focus) or “how can I get in with the right crowd” (again, external).

Versus, a value exchange model, which would make you ask the question “what value do I have to offer new friends”.

Maybe you’re funny, maybe you’re smart, maybe you genuinely care about others. Those are all valuable traits which you in essence exchange for their value adders.

If you can’t think of what you add to a friendship, social circle or group setting then maybe it’s time to work on yourself a little bit before you focus on conquering your new city.

This works when it comes to relationships too. People too often think “I want a guy with X, Y and Z” versus thinking “what do I have to offer a healthy, great guy”. Value is not superficial or fleeting, it’s gotta be something that lasts after you wash the makeup off at night.

There a “price” and a “value” for everything. Often the price is time, love, mental energy, etc. but there is always a price. What you have to decide is if the price is worth the value you get and if the value you give out is worth the price others will “pay” to receive it.

Is the value of a loving wife and children worth the price of monogamy and hefty responsibilities? For many men it is. If it’s not for you, that’s okay, just be honest about it. Is the value you give to a friendship or loved one worth the price they pay in return (time, love, patience) it should be – if you want to live a healthy, happy life.

Just be sure you’re always putting out more value than you expect to get back, if you do this you’ll be blessed far more richly than you expect.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get – Warren Buffett

7. Create More Than You Consume

Creating can be anything from adding value to the world via a charity to producing a new kind of steel that changes the way we build. You can create music, literature, art, business innovations… pretty much anything. But it’s so essential that you create more than you consume.

If you’re a stay at home mother and you do the best you can to raise your children – you’ve spent 18 years creating the next generation.

But if you spend your day doing brain dead work with no outlet for creation, what are you adding to the world?

I create through my business, this blog, the fiction I write privately (which possibly one day I’ll share) the love I try to give openly and in other smaller ways. I find nothing wrong with enjoying myself and “consuming” the best of what the World has to offer because I create more value than I take in. Your consumption should mirror your creation and ideally your creation should far outweigh the latter.

This post has been weeks and weeks coming… hope you got something out of it, I’d love to hear what lessons you’ve learned in the last year… Also I post this as I’m about to turn 26 (aah!) this coming Friday. So my next year of adventure is just around the corner, wish me luck!