Leo Tolstoy gives us the universal solution to all questions

“There was no solution, but that universal solution which life gives to all questions, even the most complex and insoluble. That answer is: one must live in the needs of the day—that is, forget oneself.” – Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

Tolstoy shows us the antidote to the misery that accompanies what David Hinton calls ‘the relentless industry of self’. There are two parts. 

First, live in the needs of the day. What is this day calling from us? This is a different question than asking ‘what can I get done today’ or ‘how can I have fun today’ or ‘how can I get away from what’s troubling me’. 

Second, forget oneself. One day alone is larger than our little ego could ever be. Forget yourself. Forget your plans, your worries, how you’re perceived, if you’re making the right moves or not. Passion helps with this – we can get lost in flow. And purpose helps with this – do what we do today for someone else’s benefit, not our own.

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Leo Tolstoy tells us how change happens

“In spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them—or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.” –  Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

Change is gradual. Usually so gradual it’s imperceptible. Our environment – both what we consciously chose and what we chose a long time ago and is now unconscious – shapes us, changes us. Like a seashell becoming sand, the exact moment can’t be pinpointed.

Two things to remember:

1 – Make your choices wisely and deliberately. We are what we repeatedly do, as Will Durant said. That includes the quality of food, news, interactions, exercise, everything.

2 – It’s pointless to be frustrated that a change you want to make isn’t noticeably happening. Whether it’s something you want to change about yourself, someone else, or a culture, Tolstoy reminds us “they imperceptably change of themselves.”

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Spring purpose is travelling to you

Spring moves north with each moment. 

Spring is there, even though the calendar says it’s here. We’re here – or at least I’m here in New England. Spring is coming.

It’s always helpful to remember where we are within a larger context. I was lucky enough to spend some time in spring already by being in a lower latitude earlier last month. That helps immensely with living in the long ‘mud season’ up north poised between snow and flowers. 

Placing our daily challenges into part of something larger relieves tension. Where just a moment ago we were face up against a wall of frustration, purpose provides a more spacious open area to play in.

It may be helpful for you to notice what kind of spring you’re experiencing today – in the natural world around you, internally, at work, with your loved ones. What new growth is growing and what feels like it’s stuck in permanent winter. And place that in a larger context of a season of great change, one with an inevitable happy ending.

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Hermann Hesse on what he needs to be happy (Hint: twenty books may be needed)

“I would give my left hand if I could again be a poor, happy bachelor and own nothing but twenty books, a second pair of boots, and a box full of secretly composed poems.” – Hermann Hesse

In 1919 at age 42 Hesse made that move. He went to Montagnola, a small village in the foothills of the southern Swiss Alps. He stayed there the rest of his life. It was here that he wrote all of his major works (in order of publication): Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the Eastand The Glass Bead Game. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for these works.

When we are young, simplicity can happen without us even choosing it. When we are adults, it has to be chosen. It isn’t just given. The complexifier part of the brain (not yet scientifically proven, but I’d bet money we have one) keeps adding layers of interest and desires for accumulation and gathering.

When were you happiest in your life? I’ll make another bet – it was when you were following a passion and had relatively little – little money, little possessions, little number of entanglements. It might have been when you were a kid, it might have been when you were a young adult. It might be right now. 

For example, I was happiest as a kid out in nature, with a few books. Or listening to music on the radio. I was happiest as a young adult living out of a backpack, and then again studying music in college, so poor that I remember my friend Emily giving me a chocolate bar one afternoon. It was the first food I had eaten that day because I didn’t have money for food. Poor, but happy. I’m happiest as an adult once again out in nature, or with music in me. I don’t need much.

The spirit of play needs the immediacy and focus of simplicity to thrive. And purpose needs the space that simplicity provides to slowly grow. And the internal force that quietly, relentlessly drives you to being at your best doesn’t love money, or stuff. It wants more from you – it wants you too to be happy.

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Oh, that’s bad, no that’s good! (What I learned watching Hee Haw)

There is a classic skit on Hee Haw where Roy Clark tells a story and Charlie replies with either “oh, that’s good” or “oh, that’s bad”. The joke builds as every time the “that’s good” reply is corrected with Roy Clark saying “no, that’s bad.” What we thought was good news turns out to be bad in the story. And what someone would normally label as “that’s bad” gets corrected by Roy (“no, that’s good”) as we realize that the ‘bad news’ turns out to be good news as the story unfolds.

What’s in your circle of control? Larger forces work their dark magic on us and we find ourselves in situations that might be called ‘less than wonderful’. Things happen, bad things happen, beyond our control. Wonderful things happen too. We can focus on what a shame it is we didn’t win the lottery, had that car accident, got that illness, didn’t get that raise, on and on. 

And we can also focus on what is in our control – how we perceive and react to what we see. We can consciously choose what our perception is instead of how our unconscious bias labels.

If you’re unsure of how to do shake things up in this way, try a simple trick. Whatever you’d normally judge as bad, label it the opposite. What if it’s great? The Buddhists are wonderful at this, welcoming discomfort in the service of learning. And Carl Jung took this contrarian view with this patients – good news was met with dismay because they’d be less likely to do the hard work of individuation, and bad news was met with celebration.

So, is what is happening right now good or bad? Are you in heaven or hell right now? Are you sure?

“Everybody has that opportunity. It’s our choice of perception. How do we perceive the world around us? We can perceive it negatively and go to hell or we can perceive it positively and make it work well and go to heaven, you know, play with the angels.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

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One man, one hundred years of joy

“If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – Klaus Obermeyer

“My sentence was a thousand years of joy.” – Robert Bly

How do we persist? What helps what we care about stick? It’s a question that I’ve lived with for it years now. Some observations:

  • We persist at what we love.
  • We find something special in the act of persisting, something that feeds us like no other.
  • We don’t let the rest of life fill in and obscure a passion.

Life is not often what you would call “easy”. We find our inspiration where we can. Klaus Obermeyer is a font of inspiration for us. For example, he’s turning 100 years old at the end of 2019 and is still skiing. And he’s smiling while he’s doing it. 

Don’t ski? No problem, me neither after tearing ligaments in my leg (while skiing). Let these quotes wash over you and provide a foundation for you to play your particular passion. And to lay the groundwork of delight that will enable you to persist at what uniquely feeds you.

(all italics mine)

 “You apply the extension of energy in skiing… You love the mountain. You’re the center of your own universe. You’re given all these choices and opportunities—where to turn, how fast to go, how to enjoy it. You have a positive energy; you cannot fear or have negative energy.”

 “It doesn’t matter which mountain it is or which run or what conditions there are. I do not discriminate between them. Some are longer; some are shorter… but they’re all fun! I just love skiing.”

“I ski whenever it’s nice and you can see where you’re going,” 

“The days you don’t ski, they don’t come back.”

“I used to ski my age — 82 mph when I was 82 years old. Now I still enjoy skiing but don’t try to go that fast.”

“At this point of my age, it’s easier to ski than it is to walk.” 

“The beauty of nature in winter, it’s like a fairy tale. The other part is that you are connecting back with speed and zero-G and weightlessness. It gives you a natural high somehow. And to be able to enjoy that speed coming down after climbing the mountain is absolutely marvelous.”

“Skiing has been my life. Everything that happened was because of skiing somehow.”


I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950. 

Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars. 

He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’.

Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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“Life is a dance, and we’re dancing on a moving floor.” – Klaus Obermeyer

“To be creative means to be in love with life,” Osho said, “You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” 

Martha Graham said, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul” 

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”

We can look at dancing as literal. Or we can look at a dance as a metaphor for how we approach today’s problems. 

In life, in aikido, in business, whatever 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer focuses on, he uses the dance metaphor. In interview after interview he returns to ‘the dance’. 

“There’s so much new, it’s a dynamic world that we’re living in and dancing in, which makes it very wonderful.”

 “I think finding out the best way to dance through life without making enemies is important.”

“It’s kind of like a dance on a floor that’s moving.”

 “Life is a dance, and we’re dancing on a moving floor. So things are always different, and there are always opportunities. Always new opportunities. Isn’t that wonderful?”

 “The challenges and the opportunities never end. That’s always there for the taking. We are dancing through life. If something negative comes, we know there is something positive connected to it.”

“Life is a dance, and we’re dancing on a moving floor. So things are always different, and there are always opportunities. Always new opportunities.”

How might you dance with your challenges and your opportunities today?


I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950. 

Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars. 

He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’.

Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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“Every Attack is an Opportunity” 99-year old Klaus Obermeyer on Aikido and Business

99-year old Klaus Obermeyer practices aikido every day. He says it is the only way to keep his body and mind in shape to run a business and still be active. He applies aikido principles in his “win-win” approach to running his business, Sport Obermeyer.

I don’t have any intention to learn and practice aikido. But I do have a strong intention to be inspired by masters of anything to be at my best. Here’s our inspiration on how to approach our problems today:

“Aikido is a great martial arts that has a wonderfulness to it. In Aikido you don’t hurt your partner, you control your partner. If you hurt him, he may come back two days later and hit you with a two-by-four. Aikido brings about peace. Aikido exists spiritually as well as physically. The older you get, the more you use of the spiritual part and a little less on the mat.”

 “It is a peaceful martial art and an interesting mix of technique and extension of energy.” 

 “This is a peaceful martial art form. The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent.” 

“The idea is to become one with the attacker.” 

“Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity. You can make it work in your favor.” 

 “I don’t fight back. I just step out of the way so my opponent falls on his face.”

 “You want to achieve the Japanese state of mushido, where you are totally thoughtless; your mind is blank.”


I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good ‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950. 

Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars. 

He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’.

Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98th and 96th birthday interviews, among other sources.

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February by Margaret Atwood

Laura found this poem, perfect for helping us through the hardest part of winter.

February by Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat

and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat, 

a black fur sausage with yellow

Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries 

to get onto my head. It’s his

way of telling whether or not I’m dead.

If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am 

He’ll think of something. He settles

on my chest, breathing his breath

of burped-up meat and musty sofas,

purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat, 

not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door, 

declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory, 

which are what will finish us off

in the long run. Some cat owners around here 

should snip a few testicles. If we wise 

hominids were sensible, we’d do that too, 

or eat our young, like sharks.

But it’s love that does us in. Over and over 

again, He shoots, he scores! and famine

crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing 

eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits 

thirty below, and pollution pours

out of our chimneys to keep us warm.

February, month of despair,

with a skewered heart in the centre.

I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries 

with a splash of vinegar.

Cat, enough of your greedy whining

and your small pink bumhole.

Off my face! You’re the life principle,

more or less, so get going

on a little optimism around here.

Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

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The 250 hours you steal from your self every year

One hour a day, Monday to Friday, is five hours.

Fifty weeks a year times five hours is two hundred fifty hours.

What work-hour am I referring to?

Lunch hour.

Most workers I talk to say that they skip it. They grab some food and eat it at their desk in five minutes, never stopping from the fire hose of work aimed at them. Even if there’s no fire to put out that day, habit has formed and ‘that’s what you do’…that’s ‘what we alldo’.

If you’re a salaried employee (hourly employees of course live by different rules) and this is your habit, I’m going to nudge you on this. Take your lunch hour. Use it to go for a walk, go for a run, ride your bicycle, use the company’s gym. Lay in the grass staring at the clouds rolling by. Return refreshed, re-energized and healthier.

We need a minimum of one hour of physical activity to live longer, healthier lives. This hour is sitting there, ripe for the taking. How would you feel if you had exercised 250 more hours last year? 

And what would the difference in your body and mind be if you did that your entire working life? Imagine you start work at twenty and work until you’re seventy – a likely scenario for many people. 250 hours x 50 years = 12,500 hours! You’d certainly be a master at exercising – that’s well over the 10,000-hour principle.

And there’s tons of research on how much smarter we are at something when we’ve paused, taken a break and returned to it. It’s in your company’s best interest for you to take that time to replenish. Exercise is also the magic pill – making us happier, more energized, better looking and of course stronger and healthier.

Many people today are living like they won’t live past retirement, reflected both in their diet and exercise habits. But you’re smarter than that, aren’t you?

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