You Have an Identity Crisis Because You Think You Have Just One Cover

You Have an Identity Crisis Because You Think You Have Just One

In the late 90s, Jim Carrey was the most famous actor in the world — and also one of the best-paid.

He once pulled out a check on Jay Leno for $10 million for “acting services rendered” that he’d written himself four years earlier. Later, he told Oprah that he ended up making that exact amount just before the deadline in 1995. A little over a decade later, however, after Bruce Almighty and Yes Man (on which he made another, staggering $35 million), he sort of, just, went away.

Less acting, fewer crazy stunts, no more insane paychecks.

He showed up again in 2017, seeming very out of touch at a Red Carpet interview and then spotting a huge beard on Jimmy Kimmel. He’s easing back into the spotlight these days with appearances in Sonic and his own TV show, but still, wherever he pops up, he seems as happy and calm as he seems mysterious and aloof. He’ll go deep out of nowhere, tell an odd story, or remind us that “we don’t matter” while simultaneously talking about “the limitlessness of our souls.”

It all feels like something has happened to Jim Carrey in the time he was away. Of course, things have. But instead of dismissing him as another lost-cause actor, maybe, we can learn something from him. Maybe, we should let Jim Carrey happen to us.

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Restful Thinking: 7 Lines to Calm Yourself in Tough Situations

Last week, the revenue of my website dropped 65%. It’s a train wreck. I have server costs, marketing costs, and a full-time partner to pay. After the initial shock, however, I quickly regained my composure.

I didn’t drop everything and frantically attack the problem, but I took time to gather my thoughts, and it allowed me to recollect myself fast. Then, I was able to brainstorm ideas, make adjustments, and even create fallback plans.

After losing thousands of dollars, I went from “Holy crap, my house is on fire!” to “This sucks, but I’ve got this!” — all in a single day.

Calm in the midst of chaos may look like a character trait, but it is a skill.

You can learn this skill, but it takes emotional labor to do so. In order to form this kind of unshakeable sense of quiet, I practice what I like to call “restful thinking.”

Restful thinking means getting yourself into a calmer, more capable state first.

Instead of giving in to your emotions or spinning in mental circles, you focus on certain thoughts over others so you can then resolve the situation more quickly and efficiently. You make sure you maintain your mental health, then deal with the problem from a point of rationality.

To reach this higher ground of calm and clear-headedness, I jump to certain thoughts in moments of crisis. Here are seven of them you can use to calm yourself down when the going gets tough.

Insomnia: “I can’t sleep, but I can still recover.”

I have spent many a sleepless night in my life. Some because the walls were thin, others because the people were loud, but most because I’m an overthinker who takes forever to fall asleep and not much to wake back up.

For years, I would lie in the dark, cursing all of the above, only getting angrier and grumpier by the minute — minutes I could have spent recovering. Sleep is important, and you should try to figure out how to consistently get the right amount, but there are other forms of recovery, and lying still is one of them.

Even when you can’t sleep, you can still rest. You can keep your eyes closed and steer your thoughts towards calming images. You can choose to not toss and turn, to not grab your phone, to resist the temptation to get up and eat or watch TV.

You won’t always get as much sleep as you want, but you can always try to make the hours you have as restful as possible.

Pressure: “I don’t need to think to exist.”

The most powerful lesson I’ve learned from meditation so far is that, sometimes, it’s okay to just exist. No need to act, move or even think.

It’s a humbling experience to let time pass without doing or thinking, but it also breeds a lot of compassion for yourself and others. Every minute that flies by teaches you that your physical presence in this world is enough.

We don’t consider this, do we? We constantly expect ourselves to be of service, to solve problems, to provide value to others. Those are important tendencies. They can lead to a lot of good in the world. But if we don’t turn them off once in a while, they amount to a crushing pressure to perform.

Forcing yourself to do nothing is a good way to practice humility and non-judgment. “I don’t need to think to exist” is a good reminder when expectations pile up.

Helplessness: “I don’t need the answer right now.”

I’m an entrepreneur. I have three main sources of income. Every week, it feels like one of them is on fire. Something always goes wrong. While sometimes the house does come crashing down, most of the time, it won’t. Eventually, things figure themselves out.

Whenever getting there feels extra stressful, it’s because I feel helpless. When I first discover the problem, I don’t know what to do — and then I panic about not knowing what to do. This second-order anxiety is often worse than whatever worries the original problem might cause if I dealt with it head-on, so I need to remind myself of what really matters — and on what timeline.

Okay, you scratched your car, but do you need to fix it instantly? You got fired, but you don’t need a new job tomorrow. You can’t explain the drop in website traffic, but, chances are, you won’t ever have to. You’ll just need new traffic — eventually.

Problems often feel more urgent than they actually are, especially the important ones. Give yourself time. You don’t need all the answers today. Trust yourself to find one later, and you’ll be calmer and more productive.

Doubt: “If this doesn’t work, what’s the next thing I can try?”

It’s hard to say what’s worse: Not having a solution or doubting the one you have. The way you deal with either is by coming up with fallbacks.

Even if you can’t solve your current challenge, you can still think about how you’d solve one that might follow, and that provides a sense of relief. Backups and fail-safes are like extra straps on a safety harness: Whether you’ll need them or not, it’s comforting to know they’re in place.

You don’t need to map out solutions to all kinds of post-apocalyptic scenarios in great detail. Just briefly consider the different avenues you could take if your existing plans don’t pan out. This way, you’ll have a new crossroads to start from after you hit rock bottom and will spend less time in the helplessness-stage.

Fear: “Who needs you to see this through?”

I’m human: Most of my goals are fueled by selfish motives. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the only motives, nor that they’ll be my strongest motivators.

I can’t think of the last time I wanted something that didn’t involve helping others to get there. This is a wonderful dynamic. It inspires you to become a better person for other people in order to get what you want.

You know that famous line, “If you want a billion dollars, help a billion people”? When you’re on a quest to help everyone you meet, you don’t really have time for fear and paralysis.

Every time you freeze, ask yourself who needs your help. Who depends on you to go on? Who needs you to be honest with them, to try that bold idea, to take the leap you’re scared to make?

Dream up a business for the money, but start it for your family. End the relationship for yourself, but have the break-up talk to set them free. Write because you have something to say, but hit publish because someone needs to hear it.

Emotional pain: “This feels bad, but I don’t have to react right now.”

One quality of emotionally mature people is that they don’t run away when others hurt their feelings. Instead, they sit with the discomfort.

It’s okay to have impulses, to want to scream, take revenge, or act out — but it’s also your responsibility to pause before acting on those impulses. When you wait until you can sort your feelings and assess them clearly, often, you’ll find you don’t need to react to them at all. You can just let go.

Even if you choose to respond, your response will be clearer, more thought out, less hurtful, and likely yield a much better reaction in whoever else is involved. Who knows? The other party might seek to make amends in the meantime.

Wait a day before you send the angry email. Don’t jump into a new project out of desperation. You can get hurt at any time, but you rarely have to counter immediately.

Impostor syndrome: “I love myself.”

It’s only human to spend a large chunk of your time feeling inadequate. Even though we’re one big community, we all feel out of place at times.

You might think you’re not talented or qualified enough to be friends with the professionals you hang out with. You may want to create, share, and be recognized for it but wonder, “Who am I to speak up?” Sometimes, impostor syndrome is as simple and nasty as a flash of, “I don’t deserve this person’s kindness, generosity, and love.”

Often, there is no rational counterargument to these feelings because they weren’t based in reality to begin with. Of course you’re good enough. Right now, you just can’t see it. That’s okay. I want you to say “I love myself” anyway.

You don’t even have to believe it. Not right now, at least. It’s one of those fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of things. Maybe the most important one. No matter how strong your doubts, it’s hard not to smile when you think you love yourself.

Find the courage to have that thought, and you just may find the smile is real.

If You’re Ambitious, Find a Hobby You Won’t Obsess About Cover

If You’re Ambitious, Find a Hobby You Won’t Obsess About

Peanutbeer. For most of 12th grade, I was in a heated competition with a guy named Peanutbeer. At least, that was his screen name on Xbox Live. His real name was Marc. He was the younger brother of one of my classmates.

Somehow, Peanutbeer and PandoraNiklas found themselves in a constant battle for Gamerscore supremacy. Who could beat the most games with the highest completion rate in the shortest period of time?

Each Xbox game offers up to 1,000 Gamerscore, points you get for beating the game on various difficulties and completing many, often hard-to-pull-off challenges. If you think video games are fun as they are, this extra layer of gamification will easily get you addicted. Besides optimizing each playthrough around garnering the most achievements, it also incentivizes you to try things in the game you otherwise wouldn’t have.

With Peanutbeer and me, it quickly became an 80/20 thing. We focused on getting the most bang for our buck, both literally and in terms of Gamerscore. We’d rent 2–3 games over the weekend (you didn’t have to pay for Sundays) and try to rack up as many points as possible. It was a blast.

By the time I graduated high school, I had amassed over 24,000 Gamerscore — the equivalent of beating 24 games to 100% completion. That’s nothing compared to world record holders with over two million points, but in our local Xbox community, no one came out ahead. No one, except Peanutbeer.

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6 Paradoxical Truths of Life

The first paradox I ever saw was Waterfall by M. C. Escher.

Examples of Paradoxes Cover
Image via Facebook

How does a four-year-old come across a perpetual motion illusion by an artist who died 20 years before he was born? Well, it hung in our hallway. Not the original, of course. The copy provided enough staring material for hours.

How does that work? Why does the water flow up and down at the same time? How fast must the wheel spin to make it all go round? Most importantly, why aren’t they staring? The people in this painting have no care in the world. To them, this magnificent delusion barely exists.

When you first encounter a paradox, your brain goes on the fritz. Which version is true? Why don’t they add up? And why do they feel like, somehow, they still kind of do? It’s easy to get stuck on this part. To obsess and try to cram the contradiction into a box labeled ‘consistent’ in your mind.

If you don’t however, eventually, something wonderful happens: Your brain turns off. It stops trying. Suddenly, you can, somehow, accept the idea at face value and, instead of dissecting it, appreciate its beauty.

If you’ve ever felt this way, if you’ve ever been mesmerized by something you could not understand, then you’ve witnessed not just the beauty of paradox but, actually, the essence of life: It’s a mystery, but it’s marvelous.

Just because we can’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not there by design. This applies to the mechanical parts of your coffee machine as much as it applies to a breakup, a car accident, or, well, this painting. All of it was designed just for you, just for this moment. You might not “get it” at the time, but, later, you most likely will. “You can only connect the dots looking backwards,” Steve Jobs once said.

Deep in our subconscious, we know this, and that’s why our brains allow us to eventually gloss over the details and focus on learning, enjoying, and finding the positives. Yes. This is the paradox we need right now. If we accept it, it’ll give us peace of mind, a sense of ease, and freedom from worry.

If we appreciate it even, it’ll open a door to a new perspective: Maybe, both versions are true. What if the paradox combines two ends of the same spectrum? And what if we can stand on that spectrum and re-balance as needed? Might what looks like a flaw actually be an advantage?

Open your mind. Let the paradox in. Appreciate its beauty and accept its truth. It’ll prove useful time and again. It’ll prove to be part of the design.

Here are six of my favorite examples of paradoxes that can make your life a lot easier.

1. You didn’t come this far to only come this far

Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days. Imagine being on day 49 of such a feat. “I can’t run another marathon. I just can’t.” Yes. But then, he did.

I’m sure there was more than one mile Dean hated. On the 30th marathon. On the 10th. Even on the first. But each time, whether it was mile two in race one or mile 17 in race 43, he remembered: You didn’t come this far to only come this far.

When you have trouble starting, remember how you got to the starting line. When you have trouble finishing, remember how you got close to the goal.

No matter how far you’ve come, no matter how daunting the obstacle ahead, there’s always a little more to go. This isn’t sad. It’s life — and simply a reminder of all the great things that lie behind you already — even if, sometimes, these great things consist of small steps.

2. Wherever you go, there you are

While life is a never-ending journey and we should always move on and strive forward, it pays well to stop sometimes and look around. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Heeding Ferriss Bueller’s advice lets us take a breath, enjoy the scenery, and celebrate our accomplishments. It also affords us a chance to look at the path that brought us here. We didn’t take all turns deliberately, and not all deliberate turns take us where we want to go. Yet here we are. This is it.

Why did you send that careless email? How come you stayed in this city? Why did you tell her your embarrassing story? Maybe you know, maybe you don’t. But it led you right here. To joblessness. To friendship. Into love. And that’s all that matters.

3. The easiest way to getting what you want is learning to want less

Once you’ve arrived, the best way to be present is to not look too far ahead. You’ll hit your next obstacle soon enough. That’s a time for forward-thinking.

For now, again, look around you. Look at what you have. Isn’t that enough? Slowing down today makes tomorrow feel like we lived more yesterday. Like we had it yesterday. Enough. And if we start from enough, today is a gift.

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want,” Naval says. Wanting is powerful. It makes you do things. Doing without wanting is joyful. It makes you love things. You choose.

4. You can’t *change* the people around you, but you can change the *people* around you

How many of the people you’ve met made you think, “I wish they’d never change?” That’s rare. Wishing for others to be different is the norm.

Of course, most people don’t change quickly, easily, or at all, let alone according to your wishes or because of anything you did, and so, eventually, you’ll leave most of them behind. That’s okay. It’s necessary. But when you find someone who makes it easy to stay, think long and hard before you leave.

How many true friends do you need to be happy? Five? Three? One? It’s easy to wander through life, hopping from circle to circle, always meeting people, always hoping for better but never quite connecting.

What if we stuck with those to whom we feel connected already? Let’s leave behind who we must leave behind but cherish the people we never want to change.

5. Don’t try to find people you’re willing to be with — be willing to try with the people you find

As little as you can do to change others, as much there is to be done inside yourself. Meeting the people who fit into your life like perfect puzzle pieces takes inner work — especially in love.

Bring out the best in yourself, then let those parts act like feelers, just waiting to register a signal from someone else. In the meantime, the strongest signal you can send is showing up.

Don’t wait for someone to open your eyes, mind, and heart. Choose to go through life this way. Hand out trust advances. Be willing to try, and you’ll be surprised how many people will extend you the same courtesy.

6. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others

If our lives didn’t end, they’d be meaningless. That’s another example of a paradox. Maybe the biggest. Most of us want to spend this limited time in the most meaningful way, and that usually means taking care of others.

Whether it’s being a mom, a great husband, a kindergarten teacher, a writer educating readers, a coach helping entrepreneurs, at the end of the day, life revolves around people. One of the hardest commitments to make is to hit pause on that carousel, step back, and take care of yourself. It’s also one of the most important.

The only way to bring the most and best of your time and energy to the grand human table is to ensure you have time and energy to spare. It’s not egoistic to put yourself first. It’s generous.

The guy gazing at the sky. The lady hanging her laundry. The reason the people in Escher’s painting don’t care about the waterfall is that they’ve accepted it. They rest easy. They don’t mind the inconsistency.

Paradoxes can seem like they’re here to make our lives harder. Little puzzles to keep our heads banging against the wall. They’re not. Paradoxes give us more options for truth because the truth always has more than one version.

Pulling from opposite ends of different spectrums lets us navigate even the most challenging situations with relative ease. Ironically, we can’t see this when we try to explain everything away.

To live life is to live inconsistently. To love life is to love inconsistency.

So smile at contradictions. Grin wide as you take on their challenge. Appreciate the beauty in life’s many little discrepancies.

It may take you a while to see it, but once you do, you might even think life’s better when the water flows both ways.

How To Become Emotionally Self-Sufficient Cover

How To Become Emotionally Self-Sufficient

There’s a German saying that translates like this: The worst way of missing someone is to sit next to them, knowing they’ll never be with you.

For three years, I had sat next to her, and it was never going to work. Three long years of being in love with my best friend, that’s what it took for me to finally admit: “I will never be with this girl.”

I distinctly remember the day. It’s one of those rare memories you can access like a Youtube video. You click a button, and, instantly, you can see it. Clearly.

When I hit play on this one, I see myself sitting at my desk, crying. I was 18 years old. I don’t cry a lot, but this one hurt. Deep down, I had known for a while we’d never be together, but it was still overwhelming.

As much as I felt sad, I also felt relieved. Finally, I was free. Finally, I could move on. Some of my tears were happy tears. This is the most distinct part of the memory. I sat in my desk chair, thinking: “Well, at least I still have myself. I guess I’ll always have myself.”

Sometimes, I joke that, whenever I have to be alone, at least I’ll be in good company. It’s funny, but it’s also true. I can’t trace back this feeling any further than that memory. That day, I understood a huge emotional investment had failed, but I also realized my parents raised me to be my own best friend.

That’s a lot to take in, and that’s why I was crying.

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Success for 20-Somethings

I won’t leave my 20s with a fiancé, a checked off bucket list, or a shredded body. I didn’t party a lot, date a lot, or travel as much as I would have liked.

I will, however, finish my 20s with two things most people want but don’t get: A job I can do for the rest of my life and financial independence.

Not in an I-can-buy-my-own-island sense but in an I-can-feed-a-family-of-four sense. All without a boss and including multi-year, what-if-shit-hits-the-fan savings, earned from doing what I love.

Two of the biggest existential fears we have in our 20s are feeling lost in our careers and anxious about our financial future. I have eliminated both of them. Who can say that before they’re 30? Not many.

To me, those two things are success. You may define it differently, and that’s okay. But if you want those two things, if you’re okay with figuring out the rest later, here’s everything I’ve learned about how to get them.

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Now Would Be a Great Time to Give Up

11:29 on a Thursday. PM, of course. You don’t feel like writing. You really, really don’t. But if you don’t prep another draft, you might fall behind on your experiment. You might not publish every weekday. So what can you do?

I mean, no one’s forcing you to write. You don’t need to. Especially not right now. The world will keep spinning either way. Who cares if you don’t?

Haven’t you earned the right to quit? Inbox zero, the call where you planned a new project, the newsletter you sent out — you did all of those today. Can’t that be enough? Of course, it could. It probably is. Yet here you are, staring at the blinking cursor.

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The 5 Qualities of Emotionally Mature People

A few years ago, we had a falling out with my grandfather.

Sadly, my grandma died fairly young. Lung cancer. 2008. After her death, my grandpa started “acting out” — or at least that’s what a parent might say.

Before he retired, my grandfather was an architect and a very successful one at that. Since grandma died, however, my grandpa has been “spending the money with both hands,” as we say in Germany. Trying to fill a void that can’t be filled, he buys cars, art, and expensive clothes. He takes fancy vacations, eats out a lot, and dates women half his age who only care about his money.

He’s also completely retreated from family activities. He bailed on my sister’s concert once — before it was her turn to sing. He never shows up at our house anymore. He’s angry, erratic, and scares everyone away, even his friends.

Now, my grandpa was always a bit difficult, but I also remember him as a generous, funny, interesting man. He always had good taste, hosted great parties, and told jokes about everything. Unfortunately, that man seems gone.

Next to my aunt, I was among the last to visit him before he stopped talking to us altogether. In the end, what shocked me the most was his utter lack of perspective. He was unable to see anyone else’s point of view, and that’s why he now spends most of his time alone.

My grandpa never grew up. He is a 4-year-old child inside the body of a 79-year-old man. What my grandpa is missing — and what my grandma used to compensate for all these years — is emotional maturity.

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How to Set a Theme for Your Year

You’re an ambitious person. You set goals for yourself, and then you hustle to achieve them. You’ve never shied away from working hard to get what you want.

But maybe this sounds familiar: For some reason, despite all you’ve accomplished, you still feel unsettled. The milestones that were supposed to bring you a sense of contentment never did — and now you’re worried that whatever you do will never be enough.

You can put your worries to rest. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not wired to be unhappy. You’re just using the wrong system.

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