Category Archives: Purpose

What does Google sell?

Google is the search engine we all use. But we don’t pay each time we search something, right? And they have a ton of other widely used services, all free – Maps, YouTube, News, Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Translate…it  goes on and on. It’s all free. So what does Google sell? How do they make money? To answer that, let’s try a different question. Q: How much did Google earn from advertising in 2018? A: Over $32.6 billion (Source) So, what does Google sell? Google sells YOU. Your attention, your eyeballs, and your data. It’s been said that when a service is “free”, then the product is you. Google sells “you” to anyone who will pay. So, Google is in advertising primarily. The search thing is just a tool, like running a magazine.  This is a slightly roundabout way to invite you to question WHY you’re doing something, and what’s the reason you’re doing something a particular way. Why are you working? Why are you buying that brand of beer? Why are you choosing to spend money or save? Why are you watching TV or why are you choosing to exercise or play a board game with the family? The underlying purpose of Google is to make money advertising things. It’s not immediately apparent, but with just a few minutes of thinking about, it gets pretty clear. What’s your underlying purpose? Why are you being the ‘you’ that you are?

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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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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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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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Feathers in the cereal: from a comforter with love

Do you use a quilted parka to stay warm in the winter?  99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer created the down ski parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him for his move to America from Germany in 1947. “I thought it would be nice to have something you could put on and ski in. So I cut up the down comforter that my mom made me take,” Obermeyer said. “For three weeks I had feathers in my cereal.” What will you create today from the love you’ve been given? “And what is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. Work is love made visible.”  – Kahlil Gibran

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Happy from here to a hundred

What if you live to be one hundred years old?  What kind of life would you lead between this moment and then?  What will the quality of those years be like for your? Advertisers would prefer we don’t think those dangerous thoughts. They play on our ‘immediate gratification bias’ – it’s how we’re genetically wired after all. When faced with an uncertain future, take what you can get now.  My 40 Days to Change for Good retreat in 2018 marked my approaching fiftieth year on earth, my hopeful halfway mark alive. We’ll live as long as we live, regardless of our intent. But let’s say that one hundred years old is a possibility for you. The next question we might ask ourselves is, “what do I want the quality of those years ahead to be?” We can ‘just survive’ or we can ‘arrive alive’. One phrase that may help is ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Happiness is a good characteristic to aim for. A deeper happiness perhaps than ‘jumping up and down and yelling out loud how insanely happy I am’ kind of happiness. Perhaps a more quiet happiness, a contentment, a peace with yourself, your choices and your imperfect life.  Persistence needs joy to really activate. And a long life lived with purpose repeatedly redirects and enlivens that life. Here’s to you, and me, and everyone we care about – happy, from here to a hundred.”If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

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“We receive by nature a gift” 99-year old Klaus Obermeyer on exercise and the body

Will Durant, in summing up Aristotle, said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Everything adds up, for better and definitely for worse. What we eat repeatedly, think repeatedly, how we move our body repeatedly, all of it combines to create who we are now and how we are now…and how we will meet the future.  Klaus Obermeyer is the most vital and energetic 99-year-old I’ve ever come across. Exercise is one of a few core repeated acts that sustain him. He likens the body to a gift given to us.  “I think we receive by nature a gift by having a body. If we don’t use it, it goes to hell, so it’s really important to keep using it. Do pushups and whatever you can to keep it going.” “I live healthily and work out every day in order to keep my body as strong as possible.” Use it every day and it’ll be there for us, still giving. Don’t use it and we’ll lose it.  “Your body is like a car. It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”  “What is really important in everybody’s life is to work out. Keep using your muscles and put your bones under pressure. If you don’t put your bones under pressure, nature thinks you don’t need them any more, and slowly they become brittle.” He feels that what exercise we do is less important than that we repeatedly do it. “I really do anything and everything—exercise is exercise. I try to use all of my muscles regularly. The muscles you don’t use eventually disappear, because nature thinks if you’re not using them you don’t need them. “You must work out; if not you slowly degenerate. Exercising keeps your bones and muscles strong.” Today, like every other day, you have a choice. What will you do with your gift? 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 99thbirthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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What’s so special about It Happened One Night?

How did the 1934 depression-era movie It Happened One Night go from unwanted orphan movie to Oscar juggernaut? It’s a thin plot – a spoiled heiress runs away and gets mixed up with a down-and-out reporter. They fall in love. That could be the general synopsis for a dozen other movies churned out of the studio mills that year. What captured the public’s hearts and wallets? I’m putting my money on the word vulnerability. Each of the two leads cycle through being prickly or entitled and then vulnerable. These are two people that in some way off-putting and even unpleasant. Then the façade drops. But never at the same time. They take turns – one is vulnerable and the other hardens and then the next setting the roles are reversed.  There is an ache and a desire for resolution as we watch the movie. And those vulnerable moments for each of them win our hearts and want the best for them. We start out being amused and end up rooting for them both. We go from entertained to caring. The flaws become the keys that open hearts. Vulnerability is the charm. Attachment theory first found out that this vulnerability is what makes for a positive bond between child and mother. And now we know that it’s mutual vulnerability that allows us to positively attach to each other as adults. Vulnerability is how we create a successful marriage. And a successful team. And a successful friendship. We’re each flawed and probably annoying to lots of people in our own ways. And then if we’re brave enough, we let ourselves be vulnerable. There are moments where we make the leap into the unknown and drop the armor. Those intensely scary spots are when the connection we’ve longed for takes place.

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Fight present-bias

The Internet is present-biased. Search engines prioritize the most recent, not the most valuable.  What if you headed left when everyone else lemmings it (yes I just made up that verb) right?  What if you do any of the following (and make up your own): read old books, do old things, use hand tools, listen to records, make your own music, tend a plant, grow your food, hang out with an elder, play with a child, heat your house with wood, walk or bike somewhere instead of in your car…who knows what change you might catalyze?

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