My Break-Up with Starbucks

I broke up with Starbucks… Well, I broke up with my daily trip to Starbucks. It was one of my last vices that I wanted to crack. And now, for two weeks, my mornings have been absent of that mermaid’s face staring at me. My break-up with Starbucks was two-fold: Money & Caffeine intake.

The Details: 

My Order: Iced Grande Quad Skinny Hazelnut Latte ($6.07)
Caffeine Intake: 356 milligrams
Weekly Caffeine Intake:  2492 milligrams
Yearly Caffeine Intake (from Starbucks alone): 139552 milligrams
Weekly Cost: $42.00
Yearly Cost: $2379.44 (Yes… I spent this much at Starbucks last year and was on pace to do it again this year. Crazy, Right!?)

Studies suggest that it is safe to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day as an adult[1], but I still wanted to cut back. I didn’t want to be dependent on caffeine in order to wake up and stay focused.

I had given up soda 3 months ago, so the Starbucks drink became the only place I received a significant intake of caffeine. I cut it off, cold-turkey. Looking back, I really should have weened myself off of it. Caffeine is a very powerful drug. The withdrawal I received from caffeine was far worse than that of alcohol (and that was no walk in the park.) The withdrawals (for me) lasted around 10 days. During that time I faced the following symptoms: irritability (and LOTS of it! Sorry, everyone!), insomnia, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and headaches like you wouldn’t believe. It was no fun. I was absolutely miserable. But, as with alcohol, I am glad I went through it. I am now free from the dependence of caffeine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not 100% off of caffeine. That wasn’t really the goal here. Caffeine is being placed in a myriad of different products these days. For instance, the Clif Bar that I eat (Cool Mint Chocolate) is infused with up to 49 milligrams of caffeine. The tea that I drink contains around 31-45 milligrams. Far less than what I had previously been ingesting.

If you are looking to cut your caffeine intake, here are some lessons learned from my experience:

1. Don’t go cold turkey. 

It’s miserable. And there’s really no need for it. Ween yourself off (or down) over an extended period of time. Detoxing is no laughing matter. Caffeine is a powerful drug that your body has come to rely on. Be careful.

2. Tell your friends that you’re doing this.

This one is two-fold. One, your friends can become a support system for you (if they truly are your friends). They can help you when / if things go bad. Two, they will better understand if you are irritable. They won’t take your jabs as personal if they know what you’re going through 😉

3. Choose a replacement beverage. 

You’ll need to find a substitute for all of those caffeine drinks you’ve been guzzling. For me, my latte was replaced by a low caffeine green tea.

4. Get your sleep.

Your body is going to need plenty of rest. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of sleep to combat the the groggy days.

5. Be ready for the symptoms of withdrawal.

Weening yourself off caffeine will not thwart all withdrawal symptoms. You will most likely still have them. Symptoms will just last shorter periods and be less severe.

6. Time it properly. 

This is not something to attempt when you have an important meeting or event coming up. You will not be yourself for a number of days. The ‘brain fog’ & irritability related to the caffeine withdrawal is real! Make sure you time the process properly. Allow for some days of rest / downtime.

Footnotes:

1. Mayo Clinic — Caffeine: How much is too much?

My 10 Tips for a Better Life

1. Prioritize

Pick 4-6 things that you truly care about. That truly add value to your life. Make a conscious effort to prioritize those over all others.

2. Say No. 

Stop overcommitting. This could entail projects at work, planned events with friends, and even goals you have set for yourself. It’s okay to let some of those things go in order to help focus on what’s most important to you.

SIDENOTE: I know that saying ‘no’ to goals you have set is a bit counter-productive. I find that people have far too many goals set for themselves. I was horrible with this. I’d have 20 goals and accomplish none of them because it was just far too many. Prioritize the goals, pick 1-3, and focus on those. Once completed, set another goal and start working toward it.

3. Rid yourself of clutter

Clutter = a busy mind, needless stress, and wasted time. At least that’s what it meant for me. Start to eliminate the things you aren’t using. Don’t fall victim to the, ‘I may need that one day’ thinking. If you haven’t used it in the past 9 months, you can most likely live without it.

4. Let go of the 24/7

It’s okay to relax. Your brain actually needs it. You cannot be actively engaged for all hours of the day. It’s a fallacy that people who take time for themselves are lazy. It’s the contrary. People that are able to shut down for 1-2 hours a day are usually more productive when they are active.

5. Mental AND Physical

Meditate. Practice mindfulness. The brain is just as important (if not more) than your physical self. Make sure you are spending time with it.

6. Consume Less

Buy less stuff. Eat less junk. When you buy, make sure the object brings value to your life. When you eat, make sure the food is portioned correctly and adds the proper nutrients your body needs to remain healthy.

7. Unsubscribe

Information overload is never a good thing. Pick the newsletters and e-mails that bring you value and dump the rest. You can always go and opt-in again should you miss it. There are many services out there that can help with this, but make sure they actually unsubscribe you vs. just block those messages from entering your inbox.

8. Turn Of Notifications

We live in a society that expects immediate action. This is digital clutter. Turn off your notifications. It’s an unneeded distraction that gets in the way of everything else more important.

SIDENOTE: I use Apple’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature. I have a handful of people in my ‘favorite contacts’ list. I get notified when these people text and call. For all others, I am not notified. I have a cadence to check my phone’s screen every hour or so to see if I have missed anything. (If a caller needs me immediately, [e.g. calls, hangs up, calls back immediately], ‘Do Not Disturb’ will push the call through and notify me.)

9. Stop Multi-Tasking

I’m sick of hearing, ‘I’m an awesome multi-tasker.’ Hell, I used to say that all the time. Technically I was, but I am an even better single-tasker. I now prioritize my projects and work on them until finished. That way each project gets 100% of my attention. If something more pressing arises, I adjust my prioritization.

10. Don’t take yourself too seriously

It’s okay to be silly. It’s okay to crack a joke. Life it too short to be serious all of the time. Go with the flow. Don’t waste your energy on trying to be something that you’re not.

Living Without a Television

Around a month or so ago I sold my ’55in LED 1080p LG Television’ on Craigslist. Do I miss it? Nope, not at all. Let me explain why.

I cancelled my cable subscription in early 2016. The television’s main reason for existence was cut out from beneath it. I kept the television around for use with my Apple TV and Xbox One. Over the span of a few months those devices, too, became idled. I sold my Xbox, the Apple TV followed shortly thereafter. The television became dormant. The thin piece of plastic and glass had no more purpose in my life. I never turned it on. It had become the world’s shittiest, most expensive mirror. So I sold it.

I know what you’re thinking:

You don’t own a TV? What’s all your furniture pointed at?

-Joey Tribbiani, Friends (Episode 9.23)

I now have a living room that is devoid of any dormant areas. My sofa now faces my two reading chairs (when company is present, the guests are looking at the other guests. Not all staring in the same direction). Often times, it’s just me in my reading chair peering over the pages of my book to see my pup happily sprawled out on the sofa. Those moments are much more valuable then having a television.

This also cut back the clutter that surrounded the TV. Cords, connectors, boxes and power strips. It eliminated the hue of blue and red blinking LED’s casting purple shadows on my wall at night. It helped clear my mind, spend more time with my pup, and also gave me a few extra dollars in my pocket. Can’t beat that!

So do I miss my TV? Nope, I don’t. I haven’t for a while now. If anything, I enjoy what not having a TV has brought me.

2 Months Sober & Healthy

The time has come to celebrate another month of health and sobriety.

Health has been my major focus for the past two months. Eating right, exercising, mindfulness, and most importantly: consistency. My days are now structured. I have a morning routine, an after-work routine, and a bedtime routine. I rarely stray from these routines (allowing new habits to be formed). I now have the tools I need to leave the past life of excess behind.

In sticking with these routines, sobriety has become a secondary thought. In the past, my main focus was to stay sober. ‘Okay, Kurt, don’t drink today’ I’d tell myself. That thought permeated throughout the day. Having the structure to my days has naturally eliminated those thoughts. I simply don’t do it. Don’t need to. I have better things to do with my time.

A Test in Patience: Today’s Morning Commute

The sound of screeching tires pierce the silence of my morning commute. A black BMW slides to a halt, stopping centimeters short of my rear bumper. My eyes shoot toward the rear view mirror. I am greeted by the driver’s silhouette against the morning sun. I squint to see her face. She is stressed. I can tell by her expression. She is talking to herself – and potentially me. I decipher what she is saying by reading her lips. I can interpret the four letter words clear as day. After muttering a few more expletives to herself, she decides to communicate her feelings through a commonly used hand gesture… or should I say, finger gesture?

Did she just flip me off? I can’t believe she flipped me off! Wait… I’m confused!? What the hell did I do!? Was that really directed toward me!? That can’t be…

It was directed at me. Directed toward the guy sitting patiently at the roundabout waiting on his turn to proceed. Did I do something wrong?  Am I going to let this affect my day? Why is her anger directed toward me? I was so confused.

Let’s take a closer look at those questions:

Did I do something wrong? No. I was waiting for the traffic to clear to enter the roundabout. There is nothing I could have done to prevent her actions.

Am I going to let this affect my day? No. The only thing that I have control over is how respond to this situation. I cannot address her anger, I don’t need to. I have two choices; shrug it off and move on with my day or get angry and let it sit with me all day. The latter does no good for anyone. She may feel she was wronged. She may carry it with her today, but that’s out of my control and quite frankly, none of my business.

Remember:

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.

-Wayne Dyer


Why is her anger directed toward me? Who cares. It’s completely out of my control. I have no idea what she is going through in her life. She could have just had a major fight with her partner, or child, or parent, or whomever. She may have just gotten some terrible news. She may have just been pissed off that she needed to go back to work after the long Memorial Day weekend. No matter where her anger stemmed from, it has no bearing on me.

Shoshin: The Beginner’s Mind

Shoshin is the Zen Buddhist term that translates to “beginners mind.” It’s the idea of letting go of all of your preconceived notions and adjusting your attitude to be completely open when learning / studying a subject.

Our thoughts and behaviors are usually influenced by the way we were raised. Subjects such as religion or politics are often passed from one generation to the next. If you’re a Catholic adult, you were more-than-likely raised in a Catholic household. Your parents political attitudes will most likely have influence on your party alliances as an adult. But this type of ‘system-taught behavior’ is not limited to religion and politics. It effects everything. The way you do your work is directly influenced by your previous bosses and mentors. The way you eat, drink, socialize is influenced by the friends you surrounded yourself with. At some point in your life, you learned how to think/do from someone else.

So what’s the problem here? Isn’t that how we learn; by being taught by someone? Yes, that is true, however this type of ‘system’ often clouds our brains. We have been taught to do something ‘one way’, not necessarily ‘the right way.’ Shoshin allows you to approach every subject as if you’re learning it for the first time. It allows you to formulate new thoughts and beliefs around a subject sans any preconceived biases.

See, when we get to the point of being an ‘expert’ on a topic we often start losing sight of the other ways of doings things. Many ‘experts’ state: ‘I already know how to do this’ and shut out new thoughts and ideas. Take my position for instance. I consider myself pretty knowledgable around digital marketing in the healthcare space. With marketing, there are often many ways of accomplishing the same task / getting to the same intended outcome. Some are simple, some more complex. When I was learning about digital marketing I was taught to do things a certain way. That doesn’t necessarily mean that what I was taught was the ‘right / most efficient’ way of doings things. It just means that I was taught by someone who had also learned, at one time, how to do it that way. When discussing digital marketing with other team members, I make a point of keeping my mind open to the way they do things. I can then figure out the best way to get things done. I have learned so much by taking this approach.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.

-Shunryu Suzuki

So how can you start applying Shoshin to your day? It’s actually quite simple. Here are three techniques I use in my daily life to practice.

1. Assume that what I know is wrong / misinformed. 

This is a great way to start focusing on what others are saying in meetings. Take the approach that everything you were taught was misinformed. This truly opens you up to the new thoughts and ideas being shared by others. I find it very helpful / informative.

2. ‘Can you expand on that idea / thought’ 

Don’t be afraid to ask an individual to dive deeper into their thoughts and ideas. Take the approach of a curious child learning a subject for the first time. Tell me more… share more about this… teach me your ways…

I have benefited greatly by asking questions and doing deep dives into specific topics. This is how I acquire my knowledge. If I don’t know something, I’ll ask someone who knows the topic to explain it to me (usually in great detail). If I think I know something very well, I’ll double down on my efforts of trying to learn more. Constantly questioning if my ideas/thoughts are the best. If someone brings up a new way (new-to-me wayof doing something, I’ll ask them explain why they take that approach. This idea is quite freeing.

3. I let go of winning.

You don’t always need to ‘win.’ Western civilization has adopted the ‘argumentative’ problem solving method. The point-counterpoint discussion format can be found in every meeting I attend. It’s a bit annoying if you start looking at other methods of communication / brainstorming, like the ‘Six Hats method.’ Parallel thinking is GREAT! But I digress.

You don’t need to know everything. It’s okay to not have the ‘best / winning idea.’ The sooner you approach things without the need to win, the sooner you open yourself up to other’s thoughts and ideas. You’ll find yourself listening vs. formulating your next counterpoint.

My Morning Routine

It’s taken me a while to settle on a morning routine. In the past, my morning routine was very hectic. I would sleep in as long as I could, quickly take Pablo outside form him to do his business, take a nice warm shower, search for some clean clothes, rush off to Starbucks, drive to work and start my day (in the past, all while slightly hungover). This was very unproductive. The hectic nature of these mornings was very stressful. I actually didn’t realize how stressed I started off every day until I solidified my new morning routine.

The New Morning Routine

1. I wake before the sunrise

I do this for two reasons. First off, there is no quiet like the quiet before the sunrise. A morning filled with the noise of others rustling about to start their day is a stressor. If I am up and have started my routine, this noise has little to no effect on me.

Secondly, It sets the stage for a beautiful walk with the pup, but we’ll get to that stage later.

I have a hard time waking up when it’s completely dark, so I am utilizing technology to assist with my early rise. All of the lights in my apartment are connected to my home automation / Amazon Alexa platforms. At 4:45am my alarm begins to go off (starts quietly and gradually builds) and at 4:50am my bedroom light turns on at 50% brightness. At 4:55am the light builds to 100% brightness. Normally I am onto stage two of my routine before this happens.

2. Meditation

I have been meditating 2 times a day for the past two months. I find meditating first thing in the morning sets the stage for a more relaxed day. It centers me, and brings me into a place of relaxation and understanding. I do this for 10-15 mins each morning.

3. Make my morning drink

I drink hot water and lemon every morning. This started after I read a blog post stating that doing so is has many health benefits. I’m not sure of the validity of that post, but it seems to work for me and it enjoy it, so I continue to do it. Read more about the benefits here.

4. Pabs (my pup) and I go for a walk

Rain / snow or shine. Hot or freezing. Pablo and I go for a minimum 1 mile walk around the neighborhood. This gives me a quick boost for the steps I need to attain for that day, and gives him time to, well… you know. If it’s super nice out, we normally walk 2-3 miles. This tires him out a bit. Trust me, a tired puppy is a good puppy.

5. Hop in a cold shower

Yup. A cold shower in the morning is actually quite refreshing once you get used to it. Actually, you never get that used to it, but that’s one of the benefits. If I am not already ‘awake’ by this time in the morning, this does the trick. It also has many other benefits, click here for a post pertaining to the benefits of cold showers.

6. Say goodbye to Pabs and head off to work (often by way of Starbucks) 

At this point it around 7:20ish in the morning. Giving me plenty of time to get some Starbucks and make it over to work. I live approx. 7mins away from both, so there’s no real rush at this point. I usually arrive to work around 7:45am to get things organized before I officially start my day.

And there it is… The new and improved morning routine! I find this is the perfect routine for me to start my days centered and positive. I no longer feel stressed out or rushed in the morning. Since I stopped drinking, I am no longer hung over. I find I am more patient and open to others during the day.

Simple Life Lessons from Dr. Suess: Part 1

There is a great quote from Dr. Suess’ The King’s Stilts:

And when they played they really PLAYED. And when they worked they really WORKED.
-Dr. Suess

This quote resonated with me because I am focusing more and more on work-life balance. See, I was a workaholic. Everything revolved around work for me. It was my identity. I would take on every question, project, request, you name it, I was doing it. I would spend 8 hrs at work only to go home and spend 4-6 more hours buried in my e-mail, excel, code editors, and creative files. I was grinding hard. And don’t get me wrong, those hours spent were not wasted hours. They helped advance me to the position I am in now. But there was a problem with all of this. I was beginning to burn out and become frustrated with all the requests / expectations that were being put on me (expectations driven by the self-inflicted precedents I had set). I needed to shake things up. I needed to prioritize my tasks. I needed to shift my focus on what was important. And most importantly, I needed to learn how respectfully say ‘NO.’

So, what does any of this have to do with the quote above? Well, by saying ‘no’ to certain things, it opened up time to work on the projects that needed 100% of my attention. It freed my evenings from work. It gave me back the balance I needed in my life. When I am at work, I work. I am all in. When I am at home. I am at home. I am no longer thinking about / doing work. If work happens to come across my mind, I simply note the thought and address it in the morning: when I am at work.

Meeting ‘The Minimalists’

The Minimalists are currently on their ‘less is now’ tour spreading the idea of minimalism across the country. Luckily for me, one of their tour stops was in Madison, Wi.

I have been following the minimalists for some time now. I have read all three of their books, watched all of their TED talks, listen to their podcast weekly, and most recently enjoyed their documentary: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

See links below to give it a watch! (You won’t be disappointed)

Netflix · iTunes · Amazon · Google Play · Vimeo

The minimalists are great. They get it. They understand what it means to be a minimalist. The speak directly to the common misunderstandings associated with the idea of minimalism. They do not preach, rather, they inspire through their own actions (as all great leaders do).

There are two common ‘pithy quotes’ that the minimalists repeat throughout all of their tour stops / podcasts. First is their definition of minimalism:

Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which actually aren’t things at all.

-Joshua Fields Millburn

This quote summarizes why I made the choice to become a minimalist / essentialist. It wasn’t to get rid of everything. It wasn’t to show people I could live a life with only the essentials. It was a way to shift my focus away from the things. Away from worrying if I had enough stuff. Away from the cyclical grind of making money to acquire more things. Breaking through the mold of consumerism and choosing the life I wanted to live.

The second is just a beautiful quote:

Love People. Use Things. The opposite never works.

-The Minimalists

So simplistic, yet it says so much. I guess that’s why they call themselves the minimalists.

If you would like to hear what they had to say while they were in Madison you’re in luck! During the talk they recorded a live podcast. The podcast was not posted on the day I finished this post, but you can check their podcast page or subscribe to them on

iTunes · Google Play · Spotify · Soundcloud · YouTube

They have tons of great content. If you’re interested in joining the minimalist lifestyle, you should definitely dig in!

Journey to Essentialism: Kitchen Update

For the past month I have done some work on getting my kitchen goods down to the bare essentials. This may come across as a bit extreme, but having the following items works perfectly for me.

  • 1 GSI Pot w/ Cover
  • 1 GSI 10″ Frying Pan
  • 1 Baking Sheet
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 4 Knives
  • 1 Knife Sharpening Steel
  • 1 Plate
  • 1 Bowl
  • 1 Steel Cup
  • 1 Set of Silverware (Spoon, Fork, Knife)
  • 1 Breville Electric Tea Kettle
  • 1 Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Measuring Cup
  • 1 FoodSaver
  • 1 Primo Water Cooler
  • 2 Spatulas
  • 1 Can Opener
  • 1 Pasta Spoon
  • 1 Tongs
  • 2 Silicon Pot Holders
  • 1 Anova Sous Vide Machine

That’s less than 30 items! So happy with this.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks

– John Muir

The 4 Benefits of Practicing Patience

I had always thought of myself as patient person, that is, until I actually became a patient person. The day I began to consciously practice more patience is the day I realized I was not patient at all. I would quickly jump to conclusions about situations, became defensive for unknown / unwarranted reasons, and became irritated by the littlest of things. I always believed patience was my ability to wait for something, and, by definition, it technically is, but it’s so much more than that. It’s opening yourself up to the moment, remaining present, and practicing empathy / tolerance toward others.

Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you’re waiting.
– Unknown

Here is the list of the 4 major changes / insights I have experienced since focusing more on practicing patience:

1. Improved Relationships: Friends and Colleagues

I have become less defensive, irritated and combative when it comes to my friends and colleagues. I have shifted from the predominant speaker to the predominant listener. In meetings and social gatherings I would often find myself thinking of the next thing I was going to say, instead of being attentive and listening to what the others were saying. This, in many ways, hindered my ability to be truly effective. I would continuously jump to conclusions which would cloud my judgement. I was not being present.

Patience has taught me many lessons, but I believe the best lesson was it’s okay not to know everything. It seems weird that practicing patience taught me a lesson seemingly unrelated to patience, but being patient helped open the door to that personal discovery. It opened my mind to discover new things about myself. My brain is no longer clouded by distractions. I am now able to see moments for what they truly are, not how my pre-occupied / pre-judgmental mind perceived them.

2. Don’t sweat the little things / This too shall pass

It’s easy to become frustrated over that crying baby on the airplane or that driver that cut you off this morning, but by practicing patience you will begin to feel more empathy. The Mother and Father of that child crying on the plane are probably more stressed in the situation than you are. A tolerance for this type of situation allows your body to remain calm and relaxed. Is getting upset over the situation going to help in any way? The answer is no. By allowing yourself to get upset or angry, you are only doing harm to yourself. Take a breath, remain patient, and let the moment pass you by.

3. Positive Attitude

With patience comes an overwhelming feeling of positivity. You are no longer reactive to situations or caught dwelling on past situations (often times leading to stress or other negative feelings). You live in the moments and you see how they truly are. Not 5 minutes ago. Not 5 minutes from now. You recognize the situation for what it is, at the present moment. That is a powerful thing.

4. Health

Stress and anxiety have some pretty serious effects to your overall health (not good ones). Stress alone has been scientifically linked to a number of serious health problems including, but not limited to, heart disease, depression, obesity, accelerated aging, premature death, the list goes on.

By opening yourself up to the idea of patience, you become less stressed, less agitated, less irritable, less everything negative really. Sure you will find yourself experiencing these emotions, but they will no longer be over the petty things that once brought those feelings on. They will be grounded in true situations where you’re justified in feeling so. Remember, no emotion is constant. The ebbs-and-flows are needed in our experiences.

The Fallacy of Pursuing Happiness

Happiness. Such a great feeling, right? We all search for happiness in our lives, but are we searching too hard for it? I’m guilty of reading far too many books on the idea of ‘happiness.’ They all taught me one thing:

QUIT SEARCHING FOR HAPPINESS!

hap·pi·ness /ˈhapēnəs/
noun
1. the state of being happy.

hap·py /’hapē/
adjective
1. feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

Happiness is a fleeting. It allows you to truly enjoy what is happening at the time of experiencing that emotion. You must stop searching for ‘happiness’ and allow it to happen; naturally. Happiness, like any other emotion, does not exist in a constant state, and the search for a constant state of ‘happiness’ can be detrimental to you and those around you. This is something that took me a while to learn.

Everyone has their peaks and valleys. This is completely natural. No one is constantly ‘happy’. Even if that were a thing, would you want it? How sad would it be to only experience happiness? I know that last sentence seems a little arrogant, but let me explain. When happiness is the baseline, you have nowhere to go from there. Many of the happiest moments in my life were aided heavily by some type of negative emotion I was previously experiencing. The negative feelings made ‘feeling happy’ that much better. It’s the give-and-take, the ebb-and-flow, that makes living life so beautiful.

Too much of one thing is never any good. Happiness included.

 

 

Unplugging Part 1: Admitting I have a problem

At my recent eye appointment, the receptionist asked me, ‘How many hours in a day are looking at a screen; computer, tablet, television or phone?’ 

I replied half-jokingly, ‘All of them.’ 

It was, of course a joke, a quick-witted response to a seemingly stupid question. But when I thought back on my day, week and month, my answer wasn’t that far off. As a ‘marketing technologist’ of-sorts, I spend the majority of my work day staring at my laptop screen (as many professionals do these days). When I’m not doing that, I ‘m checking my phone for any news updates, texts, or personal e-mails. After 8 hours of that cycle, I come home to ‘unwind.’ I take Pabs for his afternoon walk (usually an hour or so) and then I dig in to my ‘daily updates.’ These updates consist of subscribed YouTube content, Reddit posts, Linked In posts, news, etc (aka more ‘screen-time’). I usually do this for around 2 hours, then it’s off to cook dinner. While things are cooking I return to my screens, phone or iPad, to consume more content. I eat, take Pabs for another walk (30 mins), and then it’s time to start getting ready for bed. I read for 1 hour, but quickly find myself  back in front of a screen to soak up any new content that had come through while I was away (for that 1.5 hours). 

It’s time for a change. I cannot limit the amount of time I am staring at a screen while working, but I can make a conscious effort to eliminate as much screen time at home as possible. Right now, I am spending roughly 4 hours consuming content through a screen when home. I would like to cut this in half. In order to do so I will need to prioritize what I actually want to consume. Do all my YouTube subscriptions make sense? Do I really need to watch 3 Ted Talks per night? Surely they aren’t going anywhere. What personal value is gained by spiraling into a rabbit hole of ‘ultimate fail’ videos? None. Step one will be clearing out my subscriptions, bookmarks, and prioritizing my blogs. Make sure to check back for Unplugging Part 2: Minimizing My Content. 

… you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

– Steve Jobs

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

So I saw this ‘inspirational image’ post and thought I would share it. A number of the rules reflect the transformation I am currently going through and, because of that, resonated with me.

1. MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR PAST so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

2. WHAT OTHERS THINK OF YOU is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

3. TIME HEALS ALMOST EVERYTHING, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.

4. NO ONE IS THE REASON FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

5. DON’T COMPARE YOUR LIFE WITH OTHERS’, you have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyones else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

6. STOP THINKING TOO MUCH, it’s alright not to know all the answers. Sometimes there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!

7. SMILE, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn life around and set everything straight.

10 Ways Minimalism Has Changed My Life

Now I have to admit, this is not the most ‘original’ post I have ever created. In fact, many of the ideas and comments are lifted directly from this post: 10 Ways Minimalism Ruined My Life. I just had to write ‘my version’ of this because this post resonated so much with me. It is absolutely insane how fast these feelings come on once you have minimized your life. So lets get started, shall we.

1. I think about every purchase thoroughly.

Every single purchase I have made since minimizing my life has sparked some internal debate. How often will I use this? Does it serve more than one purpose? Do I see value in buying this? Does this item mean anything to me? Is this item special?

I also am becoming more conscious of where the item came from. How it was made. What effects it will have on the environment. I try to support companies with strong ideals and morals, such as Patagonia (See them stand up for what they believe here), and not support the less moral ones.

2. Clutter Drives Me Insane.

This is not a new feeling. Clutter always drove me nuts. I always enjoy the look of open / negative space. I cannot stand spaces filled with pointless knick-knacks and other clutter. A space without clutter seems to open the min in a way. I’ve always found that the more things I had around me, the more cluttered my thoughts were, leaving little room for me to be open to creativity and other thoughts.

3. I have more time on my hands

Again, the concept of less = more reveals itself. The less I have to organize and clean, the more time I have to focus on the important things. In my past, I would become ‘bored’ and use that time to have some cocktails and watch Netflix for a couple hours. But those times have subsided as well. I now spend time on things like going on long walks with my pup and I reading. Things I enjoy thoroughly.

4. Less Clothes = Less decisions to make in the morning. 

I no longer have to syphon through my wardrobe to find what I am going to wear for the day. I have my jeans, some shirts on rotation, and that’s it. I have clothes that I like, and have gotten rid of those I did not. Pretty simple. This makes the morning routine more streamlined (giving me 10+ mins of more sleep).

5. My eating is much healthier.

No more Jacks Pizza for me every other night. With my free time, I now spend time preparing my own meals and experimenting with healthy recipes. My sous vide cooker is my savior. Cooking perfect chicken and fish every time with no effort. I also have become very conscious of where my food is coming from. Food is a tricky thing to figure out, but I’ll do another post on that later.

6. Guilt / Depression has subsided.

See, I recently found out that I had become one of those people that believed that ‘things’ would make me happy. I was consumerism’s perfect specimen. I would constantly be looking for the latest-and-greatest new thing. When I found it, I would buy it. And that ‘thing’ I had that still worked fine but ‘was not the latest version’ was retired and stored away in my tech graveyard. The buying of these items did not make me feel good like I thought they would. It made me feel bad that they weren’t making me feel good. Did that make sense? I felt like these things should be making me feel better. When they didn’t, I felt sad and acquired more; chasing that happiness in items.

7. Everything has it’s place. Nothing is ever lost. 

I no longer have to search through multiple drawers to find the charging cable for that one thing. This is two-fold: 1. I most likely no longer HAVE that ‘one thing.’ 🙂 2. If I did, the cable would always be in the same spot. I no longer have to syphon through drawers filled with cables, because I have minimized. I have a 1:1 relationship; my device to cable ratio, one.

8. I get outside more.

I love the outdoors. I grew up outdoors in the woods. That is where I find solace. I get to do that more now. And Pabs and I love it!

9. Shopping is a chore, not an activity

It’s crazy how people spend their free time shopping. Shopping has become an American past-time. Consumerism is strong. But I am slowly stepping away from that. Being a marketer, this seems a bit silly for me to be saying, but I absolutely HATE the constant barrage advertisements. It’s everywhere, and it is becoming more-and-more detrimental to our society’s health.

10. Chemicals have become an enemy. 

In the past 2 weeks I have gone from heavy chemical cleaning and health supplies to all homemade organic supplies. And quite honestly, I think mine work a lot better. It may be a psychological thing, but the smell of harsh chemicals made me feel sick. I also have been focusing on what happens when that chemical goes down my sink. Where does it end up? Many people don’t see beyond their own spaces. Out of sight, out of mind. I think we need to become more conscious of the effects our decisions make. That would make this world a much happier, better place.

The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.

– Louis C.K.

Journey to Essentialism: Bathroom

This was one of the easier areas to minimize. I didn’t have much to begin with. The major change I made in this area is the creation of all the products I use. I now only use handmade shampoo, toothpaste, & body soap. Again this came down to the number of chemicals and other things that were in the past products I used. The ‘micro-beads’ and other materials found in body scrubs (and even toothpaste) were becoming a major issue. Thanks to President Obama, and a bi-partisan bill, distributing products with this type of material will be illegal starting Jan 1st, 2018 (house bill).

Here are my bathroom essentials:

  • 1 Bath Sheet
  • 1 Hand Towel
  • 1 Wash Cloth
  • 1 Bamboo toothbrush
  • 1 Beard trimmer
  • 1 Homemade shampoo
  • 1 Homemade soap bar
  • 1 Homemade toothpaste
  • 1 Contact case
  • 1 Contact solution
  • 1 Shower curtain
  • 1 Rug
  • Toilet paper

Journey to Essentialism: Kitchen & Cleaning Supplies

The kitchen. A place where the ‘one-off, one/purpose’ gadgets are plenty. This was one of the more difficult areas to ‘minimize’ but I believe I struck a good balance between essential items and nice-to-haves. Let’s take a look at the essentials list that I ended up with. I feel there is still opportunity to refine even further, but hey, it’s a process.

  • 2 Saucer Pans
  • 2 Pots
  • 3 Pot covers
  • 1 Tea maker
  • 1 Juicer
  • 1 Sous-vide cooker
  • 1 Baking sheet
  • 1 Cutting board
  • 4 Knives
  • 2 Spatulas
  • 1 Can opener
  • 1 Pasta spoon
  • 1 Kitchen scissors
  • 1 Cup
  • 1 Bowl
  • 1 Plate
  • 1 Fork
  • 1 Spoon
  • 1 Butter knife
  • 1 Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Measuring cup
  • 2 Pot Holders
  • 1 Water cooler

Now onto cleaning supplies. After doing an assessment of the cleaning supplies I realized just how harsh all those chemicals were. Those chemicals have to go somewhere and usually they harm the environments where they end up (rivers, lakes, and even ground water). After researching this I made the decision to start making my own cleaning supplies. These include materials that are not harmful to the environments they eventually end up in. They would taste like shit, but technically you could drink them.

  • 1 Homemade all purpose cleaner
  • 1 Homemade glass cleaner
  • 1 Homemade bathroom cleaner (shower and toilet)
  • 1 Homemade floor cleaner
  • 1 Natural sponge
  • 1 Bucket
  • 1 Mop
  • 1 Broom
  • 1 Dust pan
  • 1 Dyson vacuum
  • 1 Carpet cleaner
  • 1 Microfiber rag

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.

– Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

1 Month Sober & Healthy

… and feeling great!

Today marks 1 month without any alcohol. It also marks 1 month of my 360 degree focus on my health. So far I have lost a total of 22lbs, and am feeling more energized than I have in a very long time. 

So let’s start with alcohol. The first 2 weeks were an absolute hell for me. I faced a number of withdrawal symptoms that were very unpleasant. The headaches and flu-like symptoms were nearly unbearable. Looking back, it was a small price to pay for the way I feel now. In the past I had problems with triggers in the form of good news or bad news (any strong emotion really). I now have the tools to direct the energy from drinking to more healthy options like going for a long walk. I was able to remain sober through two very ‘drinking heavy events.’ 1 was a symposium for my company out in California. Drinks were flowing like crazy around me as I stayed strong, bottled water in hand. And the 2nd was a friends wedding. And we’ll, it’s a wedding, people drink a lot. But not me. 

Now onto health and wellness. For the past month I have cooked all of my own meals while allowing myself 1 cheat day. The ‘cheat-day’ is the only time I allow myself to eat ‘fast-food.’ (Each cheat day was spent on a little caesers pizza.) I have become very conscious of what I am putting into my body. I am purchasing organic foods from Willy Street Co-Op & Whole Foods. I drink only tea and water (and my occasional iced latte from Starbucks. Trying to cut back though). I have also taken it as far as making my own shampoo, toothpaste, & cleaning supplies. (I’m serious about the consciousness of everything around me.) 

My journey to essentialism has eliminated a TON of stress. If you’re not following those posts, I’m trying to eliminate everything I don’t need. My goal is to have all possessions under 200 buy the end of the year. Actually, I may have even hit that mark already. I’ll have to go back and count. This minimizing has freed up both space and time around my apartment. It also reinforces my new healthy style of living. 

All-and-all I am very happy with how things are turning out. I’m going to keep riding this wave. It feels good. 

Journey to Essentialism: Tech

My second topic on my journey to essentialism is tech. This is 3 fold: Devices, Accounts & Apps. This was one of the more relieving aspects of my journey thus far. Even though these accounts and apps aren’t tangible, it doesn’t mean they won’t bring unneeded stress. Managing many accounts is the equivalent of managing many physical items, for me, it actually may have been worse.

Lets start with the physical devices. I once would buy the latest and greatest new gadget out there, use it for 2-3 months, then completely abandon it. Over the last couple of years I sold those off and kept only the bare essentials (well, essentials to me). Here’s that list:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Alexa
  • Wink (Home Automation)
  • Nest (So I can keep an eye on the pup)
  • Modem & Router

Now onto accounts. As stated in an earlier post, How Quitting Facebook Improved My Life, I have been eliminating some social media accounts (more recently snapchat & twitter have been deleted). But social media is not the only type of account I was looking to eliminate. I had multiple e-mail addresses, accounts for random apps I’ve tried, etc. For security reasons, I am not going to list the accounts I possess, but you can see the total before and after ‘essentializing’ below:

And finally, apps. I was never that bad at hoarding apps. I like to have my iPhone and iPad clean and tidy. I did use the above section (accounts) to eliminate a number of apps that I no longer needed. Again, for security reasons I am not going to list all the apps I posses, but you can see that there were a number of apps I was able to eliminate through the totals below:

 

Journey to Essentialism: Clothes & Shoes

The first step in my quest for minimizing and becoming an ‘essentialist’ started with my closet. I absolutely HATE doing laundry, and even more so, I hate having dirty clothes lying around waiting to be washed. Over the years I had acquired a number of things I no longer wore. There they hung sadly in the closet waiting for their moment to shine. Those moments never came.

As a business professional, I had to keep a little more than I would have liked, but I was able to get to my ‘essentials’ list to the following:

  • 12 pairs of socks (6 black, 6 white)
  • 3 pairs of boxers
  • 3 plain white t-shirts
  • 1 black v-neck tee
  • 1 hockey jersey (Go Badgers!)
  • 2 pairs of dress pants (1 khaki and 1 navy)
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of sweatpants (loungewear)
  • 1 pair of athletic pants (hiking and exercise)
  • 6 collared dress shirts
  • 1 Patagonia graphic tee
  • 1 Under Armor zip hoodie
  • 1 Patagonia graphic hoodie
  • 1 North Face winter jacket
  • 1 dress sport coat
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of New Balance daily shoes
  • 1 pair of Reef flip flops
  • 1 pair of dress shoes
  • 1 Belt

I can now fit every item of clothing I own into less than 2 loads of laundry; and that feels GREAT!

How Quitting Facebook Improved My Life

“Why would you do that?”
“Don’t you need it for work?”
“How are you going to know what’s going on with your friends?”
“That’s tough, man. Not sure I could do that.”

This is a short list of the responses I get when I tell people that I have quit using Facebook. In my pursuit of minimalism / essentialism, I made the decision to step away from the hustle-and-bustle of many social media platforms (Facebook being the largest). So why did I decide to delete my account?

I had many personal reasons for deleting my Facebook account (And the list below does not include them all):

  • It took up too much of my time.
    • Every lull in my day was filled with needless / ‘zombie-like’ scrolling through my newsfeed. 
    • I would spend far too much time updating my status, trying to strike the balance of meaning and wit.
    • I would be constantly interrupted / distracted by Facebook Messenger. (Group Chats were the WORST)
  • It was not genuine.
    • ‘Friends’ became: ‘That person that I talked to that one time who added me on Facebook.’ 
    • Memes and shared links are not ‘connecting’ with friends. Scan your newsfeed right now. What percentage of posts are personal? What percentage of posts are ‘connecting’ you to your friends? When I did this assessment, I found that around 5% of posts I viewed in my newsfeed actually contained personal content I cared about. 
  • Skewed Reality.
    • No ones life is perfect, yet everyone’s posts lead you to believe they are. (Sans Political Arguments).
  • Fake News / Uninformed Arguments
    • Everyone has an opinion. Some you agree with and others you don’t. Some are justified, some aren’t. Facebook is riddled with this type of interaction. I’m trying to avoid these types of conversations in real life, so why face them online? 

So what happened when I quit? Did I lose touch with your friends? Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on so many things?

No. Actually, I have had no negative effects since stepping away from Facebook nearly 6 months ago. The friends who are actually friends, keep in touch via other communication channels (mostly e-mail and texts). As stated above, if you really take a look at your newsfeed through the lens of, ‘what would I actually want to know about my friends,’ you’ll find that there is little shared on Facebook that you cannot live without.

Benefits From Quitting:

  • I have much more time in the day to spend however I would like.
    • Giving more personal attention to my Pup, Pablo.
    • Reading books.
    • Going on hikes.
    • Learning to cook.
  • Mental Health.
    • I no longer have the stress of crafting the ‘perfect’ status update or focusing on how many ‘likes’ I receive to my posts.
    • I no longer find myself constantly comparing my life and achievements with the lives and achievements of others.
    • Has brought me CLOSER to my friends through true / sincere connections.
    • One less thing to check.

I am not here to lecture you on the use of Facebook or other social media platforms, but I can assure you that if / when you do decide to step away, it’s not as bad as you think it will be. For me, it was a personal choice. A choice that, 6 months later, I don’t regret.

Respond; don’t react. Listen; don’t talk. Think; don’t assume.

– Raji Lukkoor

Meditation and Me

When I tell people that I meditate daily, I am met with a number of differing reactions.

“Wow that’s awesome!”
“So you’re a hippie now?”
“I call those naps.”
“That seems like a huge waste of time.”
“Meditation is stupid and useless.”

Those who have meditated (properly) understand the benefits in doing so. Those who have not tried it, or have practiced meditation incorrectly (yes, that is a thing), are often opposed to the benefits.

I am a huge proponent of meditation. I took up meditation (seriously) around 3 years ago. I was looking for alternatives for my daily dose of Welbutrin XL. I wanted to find a way to overcome my depression in a more natural way. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to anti-depressant medication. Many need this type of medication to physically / chemically address their disease. I have been on-and-off of varying medications since the sixth grade. Every time I was on meds, I needed them.

So how do you get started with Meditation?

There are two apps that I have used in my journey of meditation:

  1. Headspace
  2. Calm

Both apps provide guided meditation sessions that teach you how to properly meditate. As stated earlier, there is a right way and a wrong way of meditation. Meditation is not a nap. Mediation is not ‘shutting off the brain.’ On the contrary, meditation is a way to become present, to become mindful.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to our thoughts, emotions, and experiences without judgment.

– Calm.com

Physical Benefits:

  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
  • Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
  • Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
  • Improves the immune system
  • Increases the energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy

Mental Benefits:

  • Anxiety decreases
  • Emotional stability improves
  • Creativity increases
  • Happiness increases
  • Intuition develops
  • Gain clarity and peace of mind
  • Problems become smaller
  • Meditation sharpens the mind by increasing focus and expands through relaxation
  • A sharp mind without expansion causes tension, anger and frustration
  • An expanded consciousness without sharpness can lead to lack of action/progress
  • The balance of a sharp mind and an expanded consciousness brings perfection

The dream does not begin unless you do. Too many wait for just the right time and just the right place to act.The very act of waiting actually pushes the desired event away. You must do in order to be.

– Stuart Avery Gold

 

Minimalism: Because the best things in life aren’t things.

– Unknown

The Beginning

April 1st, 2017. That is the day I made a conscious decision to change my life.

I was looking to get sober for some time, but all previous attempts were thwarted by justified reasons to pick up the bottle. (Justified in the sense that my ‘addiction’ found justification for me to drink.) See, when you’re addicted to alcohol, your brain does some pretty fascinating things to get you to drink. Chris Hardwick explains it best in his book, The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life).

Addiction is a tough one. It tricks you. If I were to try to explain it to someone (people who don’t have the gene can’t fathom it), I would say it’s like having thousands of hungry baby birds in your soul, chirping and begging to be fed on a molecular level. It’s hard to deny them and they can be very persuasive.

– Chris Hardwick

Now that seems like a pretty absurd statement, but it’s very true. It’s definitely analogous to what I was experiencing. It’s much easier to ‘give in’ and feed those ‘baby birds’ then to fight against them. Often times I would find myself in the liquor aisle of the grocery store having an internal battle with myself. My conscious wanting to remain sober, my subconscious, or addiction, wanting alcohol.

So what’s different this time? What differentiates this time versus all the others? The book: This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life. This book was a game-changer! It gave me the tools I needed to fight those ‘baby birds’ and take back control from my subconscious. I can tell you that since reading this book, every time I feel the urge to drink, it subsides quite quickly. It’s definitely a must read for anyone going through this type of addiction.

This is not just the beginning of my sobriety, this is also the beginning of a new me. A Kurt that is focused on life improvement in all ways: physical health (eating, exercise, etc), mental health (meditation, eliminating stress, work-life balance, etc.), and minimizing my possessions (discovering the ‘essentials’ in life).

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.

– Unknown