How to Improve Your Imagination

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If you’re like me, you might feel like you lack imagination. Which is strange because as a child, I had the wildest imagination. Somehow, over the years, it began to fade. I became more literal and logical. These are great qualities to have, especially in this world that we live in, but let’s be honest, the outside-the-box thinkers are just as necessary. It takes imagination to dream and wonder “what if?” Then it takes the logical mind to bring dreams into reality. I used to think that I had to choose between the two ways of thinking, but I now believe it is possible to be both.

Just a little over a month ago, I began to read books again. Like page turning, hold in my hand, use a book mark, type of books. I have grown to dislike reading, mostly because I have a huge love for movies. However, it is the media that I consume that I believe killed my own imagination. Movies and games are amazing, but they do the creativity part for you. You don’t have to picture anything. However, those mediums do still keep your logical brain challenged. In movies, you might be trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, or analyzing the message of the movie, or something. In video games, especially in the ones that I enjoy, there is a strategic element that challenges me to figure out how to best my opponent. Thus, the logical brain has been strengthening over the years.

Reading books was a challenge for myself, mostly because I enjoy writing and all writers that I know or follow say, “Reading and writing go hand in hand. To be a better writer, one must read.” Honestly, I didn’t want to believe it, but I have decided that I would give it a shot. I didn’t realize the impact that reading would have on my imagination. At first, it was so difficult to even picture what was happening on the page that I was reading. Words were just words to me. I read them, but I wasn’t being whisked away by them, and I stayed in the reality of the situation. That is, sitting there, staring at a page, reading words. However, after a few days, maybe a week of continuous reading (just 25 pages a day), I began imagining small details. Not entire scenes, or the the whole story, but little things, like the description of a characters neck tie, or, while reading a detailed description of a room, I could imagine just the chair. It was small, but it was a start, like I was flicking the imagination switch back on and impulses were starting to connect.

After a month of reading daily, I can now imagine whole scenes. I still have work to do to keep me in the story, but I can see steady growth in my imagination. It has given me more motivation to read because I am seeing tangible results, which pleases my logical brain =] I have been writing daily too, and I am starting to add more details to it as I go and revise.

So there you have it. Just read books. Something that many still do, but also something that is increasingly becoming a digital task. Spend some time, everyday, just 25 pages, and read a real, page turning, physical book, and I guarantee that your imagination will improve.


How to Get Your Shit Together in 6 Easy Steps

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We all have things that we wish to improve in our lives. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming. However, what’s the old saying? “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” To think about the amount of work required to build a while city is daunting, but to think about laying one brick? That’s a task anyone can do. So that bring us to the first step.

1: Don’t overthink it.
Life is long. Unless you get hit by a bus something, expect to be here for 80-100 years! There is plenty of time to change, so just relax a little. Do the best you can, and don’t stress.

2: Start small.
Pick a task. Just one thing that you would like to change about your life. For me, it was making my bed, everyday. I heard it from Jordan Peterson, but other people have claimed to have said it as well, but making your bed everyday will make a positive difference in your life. What it does, besides make your room look much cleaner, is reinforce your ability to make change. It might be small, and seem silly, but I’ve become proud that I make my bed every day. I never did growing up. I always thought, “What’s the point? I’m just going to lay in it again tonight and mess it up.” So I didn’t care. Now, I don’t feel right until it is made. It has become habit. But most importantly, It has strengthened my belief in myself that I can make a change in my own life and follow through. It’s a great baby step to self improvement.

3: Don’t overload.
Once you make that first change, you might find yourself, as I did, wanting to make 100 more. The most important thing is to be consistent with your new changes. If you take on a new task, but you slack on the old one, then you weren’t ready to add more to your plate. After I began making my bed everyday for the first week, I decided that I was going to go for a run every morning. After a few days, I was so focused on the run and making it routine that I began leaving the house without making my bed, saying, “I’ll do it when I get home.” Well, after a few days, I would get home, too tired and wanted to just relax for a few minutes first. You can guess where this leads. I stopped making my bed in the morning. So, I scaled back, and focused on the bed making again, and less on the run. It took about a month of making my bed, every single day, before I was able to do it without thinking, and then I could use my conscious mind to focus on a new task. The key is, don’t start something new until what you are focused on becomes habit, second nature. When your unconscious mind is making the bed, then your conscious mind can go for a run, or whatever else you are planning.

4: Don’t worry about “One-Upping” yourself.
Your next task doesn’t have to be “bigger” than the last. I made my bed. Then I ran. Then I focused on not biting my nails, which in comparison to exercising, seems minute. However, biting my nails had been a lifelong struggle, and now, I can’t picture myself even doing it! After the nail biting was resolved, I implemented writing into my morning routing, then reading. That’s where I’m at now, making sure I read every morning. I’m about to finish my 2nd book, and it has been about 3 weeks since I’ve been reading every day. It will soon be a habit (it takes about a month to form a new habit) and then I’ll figure out the next thing.

5: Don’t give up!
You only fail if you give up entirely. If you have a set back, don’t get discouraged. Take it as a sign that you either overloaded, or perhaps it was just a really busy day. That’s ok, just pick it up again tomorrow. This same advice is given to smokers, alcoholics, and addicts. If you relapse, don’t just throw caution to the wind and say, “well I already failed, so I might as well just keep doing it.” No. You had a step back, now keep moving forward! Since the weather has got considerably colder here in Massachusetts, I’ve missed out on some runs. I didn’t want to stop exercising, but I know myself and the cold weather is not my friend. I hate it. So, I just swapped out the running with other forms of exercise. I use the same time block, but now I’ve been working on doing as many push ups as I can in a row without rest. That way, I still get some cardio, and it is fun to see how far I can go. I started by doing 40, which I found pretty good considering how long it has been since I’ve done push ups, and by the time I hit 35, those last 5 were a struggle. Now, I’m up to 75 in a row!

6: Have fun!
Don’t let the changes become work. Find a way to make it fun. For example, when I quit biting my nails, I went out and bought a manicure set for myself. Giving myself a manicure isn’t exactly a trip to 6 flags, but I did find enjoyment out of watching some YouTube videos and trying to learn something new. It was also something to do with my hands while I watched TV. Overall, it was better than biting my nails and then feeling bad about it once I realized that I had chewed half of my fingers to the bone, and then continue to do the rest, consciously aware that I am doing it and hating that I can’t stop. Just try to find a way to make the changes a little more enjoyable than not doing them.

Anyone can make a difference in their own lives, and the fact is that it will carry over into the lives of those around you. Once I began this journey of self improvement, other people have noticed that my mood is better, and my confidence is too. It has a way of brightening the day of those around you and even making some of them want to make improvements to their own lives. Just follow these steps, and remember, start small! The formula is:

Small Changes + Time = New You


Motivation, Musings

The Mountain

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“Maybe I’m just like my mother. She’s never satisfied.”

I’ve been told that I’m extremely stubborn. I guess it’s true. It isn’t that I refuse to do what other’s want. Actually, I’ve got an uncontrollable need to please people. Let me explain.

If we were to hang out, and I wanted to go to the movies, but you wanted to go do something else, I’d happily decide to do whatever you wanted to do. The same goes for dinner. That’s why I feel like Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” when asking my daughter and wife what they want for dinner.

what do you want.gif

I wouldn’t care if it were my birthday, in fact, as a child, I’ve given up birthday presents so that my brother could open up a gift too, because I felt bad that I was receiving toys and he wasn’t. Material possessions don’t mean much to me.

However, when it comes to something that I supposedly “have” to do, that’s where my stubborn self comes alive. I am a human being, equal to all other human beings around me. I don’t care if you’re the pope, king, president, or homeless; we all breathe the same air, and bleed the same blood. Therefore, no man or woman shall have domain over me. See, in the previous scenarios, I concede to other’s desires, but it is still my choice in the matter. When I am told, “You have to do this, or else.” Then my freedom of choice is being challenged, and I will usually go with the “or else” option.

I don’t know what it is. There is this feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach that just won’t allow me to give in to the power of someone else, unless it will harm an innocent person. For example, the time I walked in on a robbery, I was surprised to learn in that moment that I didn’t fear death. I was more disappointed that I was bested, like losing a game of chess. I was outnumbered, and unarmed, but my mind was still looking for a last ditch effort to fight. However, I was not alone. There were 10 innocent lives behind me, and one wrong move could have put them in danger, and so I decided to do nothing. It is a moment that I will wrestle with for the rest of my life as to whether or not that was the best course of action, even though we all ended up walking away unharmed (relatively, one guy did get pistol whipped when they first arrived), I also wonder, what if they weren’t going to let us live? And I did nothing. But I digress.

When I was in the military, where you have absolutely no rights. I still somehow maintained some respect. When I would get yelled at by a superior, and if I didn’t deserve it (sometimes I made mistakes, in which case I accepted the verbal lashing), but when they were just being jerks because of my rank, I always stood up for myself. I’d usually say something like, “Look, I know you outrank me, and I know how this works, so I will do whatever you’re asking me to do, but you don’t have to yell at me, just tell me what needs to get done and I’ll do it.” And to my surprise, and if we were alone, it worked. Only if they had fellow superiors around them would they dig their heels in and act worse, but I completely understand that.

I’ve learned to praise publicly, criticize in private. So, later, when I felt disrespected, I would bite my tongue, and find them later, alone, and talk to them about it. Again, it usually worked. Most of the time, they’d make a conscious effort to speak to me better. Now, when I say better, I don’t mean that they’d not make commands. They still outrank me, and it is still the military. I mean the added nonsense. The name calling, or family insults. So, instead of, “Harrigan, go fucking clean that mess over there you inbred piece of shit!” They would begin to say, “Harrigan, I need that mess cleaned.” and I’d say, “Roger that” and get to it.

Moving on, when it comes to jobs, outside of the military, I understand that I have a boss and my position in the company. However, like the military, I won’t be told what to do. When I worked at Walgreens, before the Navy, I had tickets to a Celtics game. I told my boss, a month in advance, that I would need that day off because of the game. He said it shouldn’t be a problem. The day before, near the end of my shift, he approached me and said,
“I couldn’t find anyone to cover your shift, so you have to come in tomorrow.”
“Umm, I told you that I had tickets to the Celtics a month ago. Why would you even schedule me to work that shift?”
“That’s usually the shift you work. It isn’t my responsibility to find someone to cover your shift, it’s yours. You didn’t find someone to cover your shift, so you have to work. Plain and simple.”
“No, you said that you were going to find someone to cover my shift. If you told me to find someone, I would have. You said that it shouldn’t be a problem. I already bought the tickets.”
“You’re scheduled to work tomorrow, if you don’t come in, then you’re a no call no show and you’ll be fired.”

The next day, I went to the game. I was fired. I regret nothing.

Shortly after, I left for boot camp and my life has been exponentially better since. I might not have had the guts to go to boot camp if I still had that job. The lack of options played a pivotal role in my motivation.

Perhaps these are just examples of me being a stubborn brat. I don’t know. What I do know is that when it feels like someone is flexing power of me, I don’t budge. When I was a teen, and wrestled with my friends, they’d have to literally choke me unconscious for me to stop. I would rather be put out than to give in to someone saying, “You give up?” while they clamp down on my neck. However, that same will is what drives me to succeed. It is the reason that I was able to stop drinking without help. Once I realized that people around me saw me as the “sure thing” when they wanted a drinking buddy, I decided that I wasn’t going to be their sure thing any more. In a weird way, it felt like a power they held over me. All they had to do was say something like, “Who wants a beer? Harrigan, I know you want one” as they’d toss me a can. Like they are the gracious beer kings throwing a bone to the lowly peasant. Not I. The moment I had that realization, I cracked open that last beer and just stared at it. I watched it for probably an hour before standing up, putting on my jacket, and leaving the party. I said, “I gotta go.” And I haven’t looked back. Those friends faded from my life, with no ill feelings, I still value them and wish them well, but I started walking a different path that they just wouldn’t fully understand without walking it with me. I still don’t drink, but because I choose not to. If I drink again someday, It will be because I choose to, not because I feel I have to.

That stubborn will is what made me go back as an adult to the Tae Kwon Do school I had quit as a teenager. I had always regretted not getting my black belt and it haunted me that I gave up on something I loved. I felt like the people in my past who said I wouldn’t amount to anything were right. So, during one of the hardest semesters of my life, taking 4 classes, 3 of them being at the graduate level, I decided to go back to Tae Kwon Do. Same school, same teacher. And you know what?


That same stubbornness has driven me to achieve my bachelor’s and master’s degree. I thought of all the teachers I’ve had that didn’t think I would do anything. I thought of the few that believed in me. I push myself hard because I never want to be “less than.” I’ve lived too long in my life believing that I was nothing. A nobody. Because of my past, because of my financial status growing up, and because of circumstances that were out of my control, I felt like a complete waste of human life. I would never show that on the outside. Nope. I doubled down. I trained hard. I practiced everything that I did, whether it was athletics, video games, or rapping; anything that I could compete in with my peers, I became the best or the top contender. I would not let someone say that they are better than me at anything. I will not be looked down at. And when I am on top, I will not look down at anyone else. I demand eye level contact, and I promise the same.

I know that there is always someone better at something. I have grown to understand that I don’t need to be the best at anything to be treated equally. I used to believe in my youth, that those at the top had the privilege to look down at those below, because they’ve earned it, but I now understand that there is no top. There is no below. There is one level that we all exist on, and only when zooming in real close, on specific subjects, does one appear to have elevation. But we appear higher and lower depending on what we are looking at. I might be “better” at athletics, but my brother can draw like you wouldn’t believe. Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player of all time, but I wonder how well he can write a poem? Or if he sews? Does he bake? Or fix cars? Possibly, but the point is, there is something Michael Jordan isn’t “The Michael Jordan” of.

This expands my understanding of equality. And it strengthens my stubbornness ten-fold. If you dare look down at me, or demand something from me, while we stand on the same ground, breathe the same air, bleed the same blood, then you better believe that I stand firm, like a mountain



Don’t be Yourself

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Unless, of course, you’re perfect!

People always say, “Just be yourself” as if it is a positive message. Don’t get me wrong, the intention is good, but really what they should be saying is, “Be who you want to be”

If I were to be myself, then I’d be a bad person. I have a good heart, but my mind has been warped by my childhood. To be blunt, I’ve seen some shit. Those experience have shaped my thoughts, and my tolerance for wrong doing is pretty high. It took work, and continues to take work, to strive to be a better person. How do I do it? I try to be more like people that I want to be like.

It doesn’t have to be the entirety of a person, nor does it have to be a real one. I see qualities in characters that I admire. It can be a phrase, a look, a walk, a tone, or a genuine sincerity. My self had always been shy, meek, not confident, ashamed, angry, wanting to lash out at others for a life I couldn’t understand. I hated myself, every fiber of my being.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned how to work on me. I started small, with one new quality that I wanted to have. It started with the word “well.”

I worked at Walgreens, in the photo department, and I rarely spoke to customers. This was before the electronic kiosks and digital printers, so I was developing the film in this closet of a “dark room” we had. It only had space for my head and arms to fit, the rest of my body stood outside of it. I remember reading a quote somewhere that said something along of lines of, “When I ask ‘how are you?’ and you say “good” I cringe. Superman does good, you are well.”

I thought about that for days. Then I looked up the use of the word “well,” and sure enough, when asking someone “How are you?” it is in reference to health. So, back in the day, people would respond with how they are feeling, their overall health being well. Responding with “Good” would be appropriate if I were asking you which team you were on in the battle between Good and Evil. Obviously, things change over time and “Good” is a completely acceptable answer today, but I wanted to be different.

Whenever I would have to fill in for a cashier, I would practice on the customers. I slipped many times and said, “Good” but I kept my eye on the prize. Eventually, it became habit, and “well” was my automatic response. I couldn’t believe how many people noticed. Most people didn’t, or didn’t acknowledge it, but many people did. They’d say, “You don’t hear that often, it is usually just ‘good.'”

I would give them a brief explanation of what I learned about “How are you” meaning your health, and some would say that they’d like to practice that response too. I felt genuinely uplifted every time after one of these short exchanges. That was something new about me that I liked. It was one of the only things I liked about myself at that time. But it was something to build off of.

That was nearly a decade ago, and I have been adding new qualities that I want to my character ever since. Today, I am a person that I like being. I have learned to love the things that I can’t change, like some of my physical features, but I’ve become in control of the things that I can. Every day I practice being a better version of me. I’m not perfect, and I’ll never be perfect, but I strive for it each day.

I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, and I’ll be damned if I am the same person 10 years from now. Being yourself is stagnant. We should be in a constant state of growth. Sometimes that means taking a step back to move forward. Like a tree shedding its leaves in the winter so that it can bloom in the spring.

So, the next time someone tells you to just be yourself, call them a hater and shine right passed them! You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

I’m here to tell you, don’t be you

Be better.

Motivation, Uncategorized

Build Mental Toughness by Showering

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I enjoy the hot water even more now that I know it will end with ice. The moment after I finish washing up, I take a few minutes to just let the water warm every part of my body and head before I take a few deep breaths and crank the spigot to as cold as it can get without turning off.

That first second literally takes your breath away.

I tense up, letting the ice cold water soak my hair. It takes every bit of will that I have, but I manage to calm myself and relax, turning my face up into the rushing falls, and slowly rotate, making sure every part of me has to suffer a few seconds.

When I finally turn the spigot off, I always shout out loud. Either, “Woo!” like Rick Flair, or “Damn that feels good!” And you know what? It really does. My body tingles, and some parts are almost numb. I warm up much quicker than if I step out of a hot shower into the room temperature. But, most of all, I feel mentally stronger.

It takes a certain mind set to endure. It takes a stronger one to endure when there is an easy way out. I don’t have to turn the faucet to cold, but I do, after every shower, no matter what.

This tactic is something that I’ve picked up from listening to some bad ass people speak on Joe Rogan’s Podcast. I decided to give it a try and I tell you what, it makes a huge difference in my life. I have been able to keep myself going when I normally would give up, and ice cold showers are one of the main reasons why I can do it.

Give it a try, the next time you are in the shower, finish it on cold and see how long you can endure. Each time that I do it, I can do it a little bit longer than before. Also, after it’s over, I’m smiling because I made it through and uplifted that I can do it. It’s a natural pick-me-up. Let me know if you do this or if you try it and how it goes!


Are you a nail biter?

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It was one of the more disgusting habits that I’ve had.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a nail biter. Perhaps a nervous tick at first, but eventually it became a horrid habit that I couldn’t control. I wouldn’t even notice that my fingers were in my mouth until I chewed the nail too low and it began to hurt.

For several days after, I would walk around with sensitive finger tips, annoyed that I did this again, but that wouldn’t mean I wouldn’t bite them anymore. Nails grow unevenly, so I would chew them as they grew, never giving them a chance to recover. I would bite my hang nails, and there were plenty, and even my cuticles and frayed skin around the nails. Yes, it was that bad.

So, you must be thinking, “You’re speaking in the past tense, does that mean you stopped biting your nails?”

YES! I haven’t bitten a single nail in 3 weeks! I’m going to tell you how to stop.

I’ve heard of some products that you could buy that would make your nails taste gross so you wouldn’t bite them anymore, but I never tried them so I don’t know how well they work, but I can tell you that I most likely would have bit them any ways.

What I did was much easier, and so silly that I can’t believe it worked and I didn’t try it sooner.

I wrote it down.

What does that mean? It means literally, I wrote down, on a piece of paper, ‘I don’t bite my nails.’

Then, at night before I slept, I lied in bed and said it to myself again. “I don’t bite my nails.”

The next morning, I woke up, and got my coffee as usual. When I sat at the kitchen table, there was the paper I had left there. “I don’t bite my nails.” Now it was refreshed in my mind. And guess what happened? The next time my finger went in my mouth, I was aware immediately. I took my hand out and reaffirmed by thinking, “I don’t bite my nails.”

I went out that day and bought a manicure kit. I was embarrassed at CVS when I asked where they kept their “nail filers and stuff” but after I left, I went home and put on a YouTube video that showed how to take care of your own nails (for men).

I used the little clippers to trim the hang nails and frayed skin. I didn’t need to clip anything yet. Nails actually grow fairly quickly, so before long, I was able to trim a little corner and use the shaping file thingy to round off the edges. I used the cuticle pusher to help shape the bottom of the nail (where it meets the finger) and then trimmed the excess cuticle that pushed up.

While my nails were growing and repairing, I kept reaffirming at night before I slept, “I don’t bite my nails.” Then, each time I noticed my finger in my mouth, I removed it and repeated my mantra.

That’s it! It really is that simple. I now keep my manicure kit near my TV so when I sit on the couch to watch it, which is where I would do most of my nail biting, I have a new habit of filing or trimming my nails instead of biting them. My nails aren’t the most beautiful and could definitely benefit from a trip to a salon for professional care, but until I work up the mindset to be a dude in a nail salon, I’m happy with my home care treatment.

Join me and stop nail biting! Tell me if it works for you =]



Holy Trinity

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“I’m fine.” The man said in response whenever he was asked how he’s doing. That’s a typical exchange among most people around here. He never assumed that anybody actually cared how he’s doing, and to be honest, he didn’t care how they were either. He was too tired to care. Barely 9 AM and he’s already on his third cup of coffee. Anything to get through the day, so he can get home and relax.

This man was me. A lifeless zombie, going through the motions, like so many others that I know. It’s too easy to fall into this mode of “wake up, work, eat, home, Netflix, bed.” However, I noticed that on the days that I wasn’t as tired, or perhaps I was a little extra productive and felt great, when people asked me how I’m doing, I’d respond with, “Wonderful! Thank you, how are you?” and many times, people would be taken off guard. They’d double take a look at me and some would even comment on how nice it is to hear such a response. I’d feel even better after the exchange.

I learned to give 3 syllable responses in the military. There was a First Class Petty Officer on my base. I can’t recall his last name, but we just called him ET1, which was his job (Electronic Technician) and Rank (Petty Officer First Class). Whenever anyone would ask him, “How are you ET1?” he’d always, without fail, respond loud and proud, “BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” It made everyone around him smile. I’ll never forget that. I don’t have the oomph to shout that, yet. But I do try to say things like, ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Excellent,’ or ‘Fantastic!’

So, why don’t I say these things every time? I have noticed that on days that I’m tired, I fail at being the person I want to be. There’s a quote, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I couldn’t tell you who said it originally because I heard it from a guy on a podcast, citing another guy who read it somewhere. The point is, whomever said it, said it right!

I began to take notice of the days that I didn’t get enough sleep, or didn’t get GOOD sleep. The next day was a struggle, every time. I didn’t want to do anything, and even worse, I would make poor decisions when eating. Whatever was quick and tasty. I had no desire to cook, and I wanted something bursting with sugary flavor, anything to bring a little joy to the day. After eating crap, a short burst of energy is followed by a crash, and even more exhaustion, demanding another cup of coffee. After work, I’d go home, and kick up my feet, put the TV on and say, “I’ll hit the gym tomorrow.”

Over the years, I’ve learned that my Holy Trinity is Sleep, Diet, Exercise. In that order. I’ve had some days that I’ve forced myself to go to the gym even when I was tired, and it feels a little better than days that I skip, but I’d still be in a depressive fog. Even if I ate clean all day, if I was tired, it felt like work, and I just wanted to hurry up and get to the part of the day where I was just mindlessly watching TV or playing a video game.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing with watching TV or playing games, I love both of these activities. It is the mind set while doing them that I’m attacking. On days that I am well rested, eating good, and working out, whether at the gym, outdoors on warm days, or at home doing calisthenics, I feel like I earned the reward of TV or games.

Here’s what I’ve managed to do for my own schedule and what I HIGHLY recommend for everyone. Go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. I used to say things like, “I can’t sleep at night,” or “I’m a night owl.” Whatever the reason, I wanted to use the time at night for myself and to wind down after a long day. I’d stay up until 2-3 AM and wake up exhausted all week, and sleep in a little bit on the weekends.

Now, I’m in bed between 10-11, closer to 10:30 most days, 6-7 days a week. I wake up at 5:30 on the days that I have to teach at 8 and 6:30 on the days that I don’t. I’m working my way down to being in bed between 9-10 and getting up between 4:30-5:00. For now, I still get great sleep, between 7-8 hours, and when I wake up in the morning, my new routine is coffee while I work on the fiction story I’m writing, then I read about 25 pages of a book, and then I write a blog post for my site.

I started by just fixing my sleep schedule. Baby steps. I woke up at 5:30 and had coffee, and I’d surf the web on my phone or just sit and relax and enjoy the quiet. Once I got used to it, I began writing in the morning. I felt so great and proud of myself, and that carried through my day. I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning and write some more.

After a week of doing that, I decided to add the reading to my morning routine as well. A few days of doing both, and now I’m blogging too. I think that when I am able to get up even earlier, I’m going to add another thing to my mornings. I’m trading my exhausted evening TV time for some morning, productive, feel-great-about-me time!

Sleep is the most important factor in the Holy Trinity. If you want to get your life together, or improve how you feel on a daily basis, then I recommend you work on your sleep, diet, and exercise routine. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to take on all 3. Just start with fixing your sleep schedule. Go to bed early, and wake up early. Just start there, and slowly add one more improvement when you feel you are ready to take it on!

You know how I feel today?


Motivation, Musings, News and Updates

I am a Writer


I finally figured it out.

It has been 31 years that I’ve been on this earth, and I have been writing for most of them. The moment I could put words into sentences, I wrote my first short story. Of course, back then I thought they were long stories, being around 5 hand-written pages.

I can’t remember when it stopped being fun. I don’t think it ever did. What I do know is that when I was writing those stories, I didn’t think about anything else other than writing them. Once I reached middle school, I became painfully aware of what other people thought of me. I only thought about what I should write that would make them like it, or me.

The crazy thing is, I have never received a negative comment about my writing, from anyone. That’s mostly because I never shared it with anyone that wasn’t my inner circle of friends. I wrote stories that were a bit longer, but I couldn’t seem to finish them. I would get an idea for a new story and then start all over.

What was really happening was that I would get to a point in the story that would demand a revision. I’d find a hole in the plot, or a character flaw, and once I reached that point, I began to criticize my writing as if I were someone else. “This is what they’d think” is the frame of mind I would be in. I would rip the story apart verbally, then literally, eventually turning the anger inward and telling myself how terrible I was. I spoke on behalf of everyone I knew, and even those I didn’t, as if I had just read my pages aloud in the school auditorium and was met with boos and insults.

Starting a story feels great. The idea is fresh, and you haven’t had the time to develop it much, which means you haven’t had time to find its flaws. I love thinking of the opening line. “What can I write that would make people want to read the 2nd sentence?” It might be my favorite part. So I lived in the constant state of blissful creativity to a slow decline, ending at malicious self-hatred and doubt.

This cycle continued for years. I just turned 31 and it was only recently, like a few weeks ago, that I finally figured it out.

Now, for those who know me, you probably know that I spent most of my teens, up until my late twenties writing rap lyrics. The short version is that, besides writing stories, I love poetry. I began writing poetry and stories around the same time. However, poems are shorter, which means that I can write them while still in the creative bliss state. I’ve definitely turned negative on some of my poems, but I have boxes, like BOXES full of ones that made it.

Around high school, 2001, I was going through puberty, and poetry wasn’t considered manly. As boys, our biggest insult we could deliver to each other was the suggestion that we were gay. Poetry…gay. It’s so dumb, but we were kids, and we were dumb. For some reason, if you take that same poem, and put it to a hip hop beat, now it was rap, and rap was suuuuuppper cool. Thus, I became a rapper.

My rap journey could be an entire 3 book series in itself, but for this post, just know that it was some of the most fun I have ever had in my life.

Towards the end of my rap “career,” I was making music with my friends, as usual, but something was different. When I used to make songs, my friends would make a big deal about it. They were impressed with my lyrics and my ability to string syllables together. For some reason, perhaps they weren’t impressed, or perhaps they were just used to it from me, I don’t know, but for some reason, the compliments stopped.

Then, I began hearing my first ever, believe it or not, after a decade of rapping, I received my first negative critique. It came in rapid fire succession, by the people I valued most. My producer, my friends, even my wife.

“Just rap, don’t sing.”
“You sound the same on every song.”
“You sound different on every song, you need a unique style.”
“Try switching genres.”
“You’re too political, nobody wants to get lectured on a track.”
“It’s cool, but you aren’t saying anything of substance.”

The list goes on. Suddenly, everyone was a critic. The compliments stopped and everybody wanted to put their two cents in. I know they didn’t mean any harm, but it got in my head. I doubted my ability to create. It was like reaching that point in the story where I had to revise, and the flaws in my plot made me hate myself. I hated myself.

I made excuses, I blamed others, I created obstacles to prevent me from making music. Eventually, I just stopped writing altogether. I haven’t written a lyric in years. I fell into a deep depression.

I managed to keep myself afloat by working out. A good workout is like a quick pick-me-up. It suddenly made the weight of the world bearable enough to put a smile on and go to work/school.

I felt like a failure in music, a failure as writer (having never been published), and a failure at life. I have done things that others would consider an accomplishment, for example, I went to school (for English composition, masochist? Or cathartic?) and achieved a master’s degree. I remember talking to Penelope about it and I told her, “I feel like I settled for a master’s degree.” I didn’t realize how ridiculous that statement sounded, but she told me I should definitely write that down. I felt like I settled because it wasn’t my intended goal in life. I wanted to be a big time rapper, and so every day that I went to school and not the studio felt like I was giving up on my dream.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video from Dr. Bruce Lipton. It was about the movie “The Matrix,” which I love, and how it is more real than we think. Not the actual events, but the idea that we live in a world that we create with our minds. I recommend going to watch them, as they are too long to summarize accurately here, but he gave some tips on how to retrain the brain. Basically, I have a brain that is programmed for self-sabotage and self-defeat. My mother has the same mentality, and I learned it from her. It isn’t her fault, she had a tougher childhood than mine, but through no fault of anyone’s, I have this type of mind set. I could write forever about this idea and its link to impoverish neighborhoods, but perhaps in another post.

I tried some of the techniques that I had just learned and I can’t believe it, but it works! One of them, as silly as it sounds, is while you are laying in bed, about to fall asleep, your brain is dropping into a lower frequency, Theta waves, and that is like being in a hypnotic state. During this state, when you are feeling yourself about to drift off, but are still conscious, just start thinking, “I am happy.” while picturing yourself being happy. I did this, and the following morning, I woke up in a great mood. Maybe it is the placebo effect, maybe not, I don’t know but I have been doing it every night since, and so far, I have been feeling great!

Feeling great about myself is new. I have always been full of self-loathing and have many times looked in the mirror, saying aloud, “You’re worthless” or “You’re ugly” or “stupid” etc. I have never liked me. The past few weeks, I actually do. It is an incredible feeling. What’s crazier is, I have been writing again, every day. I enjoy writing by hand, and so I bought a nice fountain pen, and I have been writing a fiction story. I have 26 hand-written pages so far, and I already have reached that point of finding plot holes. This time, I just wrote down some notes on a separate sheet of paper, and kept writing. I look forward to waking up at 530 in the morning to write. I write a few pages, no pressure, and then I read. I haven’t read a book for pleasure in god knows how long. So I decided, I’m going to add blogging to my morning routine. I don’t care what about, or who reads it or doesn’t. Not anymore. I cared so much that I gave up on it when I didn’t get praise. Now, I don’t need it.  I don’t need anyone else’s validation.

I write, therefore, I am a writer.