When I started this blog, I needed an outlet. On a surface level it was a place for some creative expression. But on a deeper level, I was writing to myself, appealing to myself… Live a truer life! Live a life you fully love! Don’t leave room for regrets!

I have no idea where the name “Authentic and Bold” came from, it just crept into my subconscious one day and I gave it no additional thought. But it’s clear now that something deep inside was clamoring for me to live a life with much more of those two qualities. Even after letting this site go dormant a number of times, growing weeds while my attention has been pulled by other things, each time I return I find those words resonate just as much today as they did that first day.

And I see the same desire for those qualities in so many people around me… perhaps even you.

I can tell you that you and I were once one hundred percent authentic. I know this from my little guy. It’s one of the gifts of raising a child. You get to see this awesome little person who is so utterly who they are. He’s almost six, and he’s still got me beat in authenticity (by a centillion times infinity!). For example he loves numbers so much, and he’ll excitedly tell his friends about gigantic numbers or cool “math tricks.” And kids who otherwise might have no interest seem to think it’s cool and entertain his suggestions for no other reason than the sheer passion he exudes.

Turns out authenticity and passion are magnetic.

But the other side of this gift of raising a child is witnessing how and why our authenticity fades. I see the earliest signs of the inevitable decline of that pure authenticity… little twinges of self-consciousness, moments of trying a different personality trait on for size, the stuff we spend much of our lives building up layer by layer to fit in and gain approval or acceptance from our friends, teachers, parents, you name it.

Until one day, if you’re lucky, you realize there’s a freer way to live. Being your natural self. And so begins the journey to true authenticity.

Except you’ve built up so many damn layers it turns out it’s not so easy to shed them. Sometimes it feels so difficult and unnatural to just be your effortless, natural self.

Meditation can help. It’s the most direct path to increasing freedom that I know. Come to think of it, I should really meditate more.

But so can just plain being bold. Because inauthenticity is usually just a case of good old-fashioned fear. Strangely enough, we seem to think that if we are utterly ourselves, completely unrehearsed, spontaneous and open to whatever happens and to whatever other people think about us no matter the consequences, something really bad might happen.

I mean come on, I can’t be totally honest. I can’t let people at work know that about me. I can’t let my friends see that side of me. I mean think of what would happen… they might ___________, or _____ might happen, or they might _________, or they even might ___________.

Something bad might happen I tell you!

But will it?

Or is it possible we might just be missing the very secret of _________?

A Deficit of Renewal

January 21, 2017

Everywhere I look, in my life and in others’ lives, I see a renewal deficit. It’s the only thing I can think of to call it. 

We work jobs we don’t enjoy, and it depletes us. Or we are overworked at jobs we do enjoy, which depletes us just the same. We maintain relationships out of a sense of responsibility. We put urgent day-to-day tasks and responsibilities ahead of the important. We run around scratching the nervous itch of our endless Productivity Complexes. We neglect ourselves.

And then we find ourselves depleted. We’ve taken so much out of our metaphorical banks that we’re in a deficit. 

When we do have time for renewal, we often fail to make good choices. Many times we know we’re doing that, but still do it out of habit. I just did that this morning, with the voice in my head pointing it out to me the whole time, yet I didn’t stop myself. Other times we might not even realize, but are duped by faux-renewal opportunities, like pulling out our phones and plugging into a world that feels like it will be a quick fix but just depletes us further. 

All of this attention to other responsibilities, to other people, to the gods of productivity and achievement, and to the demons of faux-renewal leaves us depleted. Nothing good comes from being depleted. 

It often seems like a painful irony… all of this living our lives for other people and for responsibilities outside of ourselves, all of this go go go do do do, all of this giving of ourselves to things outside of ourselves, and we end up in a depleted state which frankly only makes us more selfish. After all, we have very little left to give when we’re in a deficit. 

Everything in life that has achieved a state of balance has done so through adequate renewal. If the scale tips too far in one direction, something must be added to tip it in the other direction. When energy is depleted, it is recharged. It’s a natural law.

Pay attention to that sense of balance in yourself. Notice what truly renews you and make time for it. Nourish your body, your mind, your spirit. Make the difficult choices to pay yourself first with plenty of renewal. It may seem to some other people like it is selfishness. But they just don’t get it, or don’t get it yet. It may even feel to you as though you’re being selfish by doing this. In time that feeling will fade and this will just feel like wise action, or good health, or plain old common sense.

We all have a far greater capacity to give, to be present, to handle what comes at us with poise and grace than we do when we’ve run ourselves down with too much productivity, unselfishness, achievement, and so forth. There aren’t any true medals for that anyway. Does anyone on their death bed care about those kinds of medals when they look back over their lives? Maybe some, but usually not the people I most admire.

The bottom line is that you’re a far better person when you’re renewed. And everyone and everything benefits, not just you. You know this already. So make the choice. And I’ll do my best to join you.

My Last Day

June 23, 2016

I was meditating the other day, a practice I’ve had fairly consistently for ten or twelve years now. And I was severely distracted. 

Phones, work schedules, and busy lives usually take all the blame as distractions. Like this picture a friend of mine sent me of a family at dinner (no talking to each other, everyone on their phones/iPads)…

But the biggest culprit is really our busy minds, which take any opportunity we give them to carry us off into the future, into memories, into imagination and the like. Even without a single thing to do, locked in a distraction-free room for a day, it seems as though most of the time would be spent distracted anyway.

I asked myself why I was so easily distracted in that moment, and the answer that appeared was this: 

I didn’t feel any urgency or immediacy about that moment. That present moment was just a single, seemingly trivial moment amidst an almost endless number of moments. The various thoughts and imaginations that carried me off all had an unexamined feeling of urgency and importance compared with that present moment experience.

And another thought arose… what if there weren’t a seemingly endless number of moments left to live? What if today was my last day to live? How would I approach that moment differently?

In that moment, a new practice was born. I decided I wanted to live a full day like it was my last and find out. Buuuuut… I waited a day to start it. 

(I waited a day because I took a day to prep myself for my day of living life as if it were my last day. Then I went for it.)

Of course, pretty much everyone’s heard this notion before. “Live every day like it’s your last!” people say. There are songs written about it. It’s one of those pieces of ordinary wisdom people dole out frequently but nobody follows. And for good reason. I don’t really buy it anyway, at least not the way most people mean it. Usually it’s said in a spirit of throwing caution to the wind. Eat the extra piece of cake. Jump out of the airplane. Live a little, you lame-o. 

But “every day” can’t be about bucket lists. Some can. But most days are going to be ordinary. Even an extraordinary life is in large part ordinary for the person living it.

So for me, this experiment had nothing to do with bucket lists. It was about something much simpler. It was about showing up for my ordinary life more fully.

It turns out it was harder than expected to get the experiment right. I knew it was going to be important to really step into it fully, to almost trick myself into believing it actually was my last day to be alive if I was going to get as much as possible out of the experience. But if I really knew it was my last day, I might be spending time calling all sorts of people and saying goodbye and that sort of thing. So I decided I would live an ordinary day as if it was my last, but without anyone else knowing it was my last day.

I chose to do it on a day off from work spent with my family. Here’s what happened.

I found it difficult to follow through at first. I was continually catching myself in the act of doing something focused on the future… silly stuff, like adding something to the grocery list for a trip that wouldn’t happen for a few days. There were a ton of these moments, and each time I noticed, I asked myself, would I do this if it were my last day? If the answer was no, I tried to be unsparing about it. I didn’t always get it right, but I tried. That helped me step into it more fully and “believe it” more deeply.

As the day went on, it started to feel more real and I began to settle into it. That’s when the good stuff started to happen. I don’t want to overhype it, but I also want to convey the richness of it.

At its simplest, I just enjoyed everyone I was with so much on this day. It wasn’t just people… everything was so much more interesting because I was paying attention to it so much more. Even really ordinary stuff like washing my hands—I enjoyed how cool the feeling is to have running water pass over my hands. I miss that all the time. Most days I’m in a rush, but I wasn’t on this day, and so even that was a rich experience. 

But with people, it was that much more noticeable. I was so much more mindful than I usually am. I paid attention to people so much more fully and it was as if I was seeing them for the first time. It was this strange juxtaposition of feeling like I hardly knew them, yet at the same time knew them intimately well. It was extraordinarily fresh. 

I played hours of games with my son, the same ones that sometimes bore me to tears, and just watched his energy and excitement and all the youthful goodness wrapped up into that ball of little person energy. 

I didn’t have much interest in getting frustrated or losing patience. I was noticeably absent of anxiety. I was much more grateful than most days.

I wasn’t perfect of course. This little experiment had its flaws, its ups and downs. It didn’t turn me into a saint. But it was valuable, even eye-opening at times—enough so that I wholeheartedly recommend it, which I wouldn’t do if I didn’t think it was really worth it.

I know most people hate to even think about dying. Most of us are so scared of it that we suppress the very thought of it and ignore the reality of it… like it will only happen to other people but not to us. 

But I think that makes us more prone to living like we have all the time in the world. And as soon as we do that, it’s so much easier to fill that time with unimportant things, to squander it, to miss much of it lost in thought or in petty nonsense, and to miss out on the opportunity to be present, attentive, open and receptive. 

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But I wasn’t on this day without future. And the reward was a day filled mostly with a sense of immediacy and fullness. I’ll probably do it again sometime.