Kindness is Not Conditional

It’s frustrating when you’re not thanked for holding a door open. It’s annoying when people snap back at something innocent you say.

It’s unsettling when people do not reciprocate kindness.

But we must remember that we never know what kind of day someone had or is having. Maybe things in someone’s life are really tough right now. Maybe someone just lost someone they love.

You never know.

So if you’re being polite and kind, and it’s met with nastiness or rudeness, this is not the time to bite back. In fact, it’s a time when you should be even kinder. Because whether or not someone is going through a hard time in their life, it doesn’t matter. We need to always be focusing on how we can make other people’s day and life better, not blaming other people for their lack of kindness.

“But it’s everyone’s responsibility to be kind, not just mine! Having a bad day doesn’t give them the right to act that way.”

While we should all be kind, polite, and well mannered, we need to take accountability and ownership of ourselves and our own actions, instead of focusing on how everyone else should act.

And if you yourself are having a bad day, try to project kindness even still, because putting a smile on someone else’s face when you’re down might just put a smile on your own face.

We all can improve ourselves and be better to one another, so let’s start from within. Kindness is contagious, so focusing on being nicer to those around us regardless of its reciprocation, will spread joy and even more acts of kindness organically. Leading to a happier, more united life within ourselves and all who surround us.

Why You Need to Fail

I’m going to try as hard as I can to not articulate this point like every other cliche article, video, speech about why you need to fail. But if you feel like you already know what’s coming and don’t want to hear my take, feel free to move on.

Whether it’s in the gym or it’s in life, failing is essential to growth. Why?

Because we must be constantly reminded that progress is not linear. That we can’t always succeed and succeed and succeed, and that our goals can always be achieved effortlessly.

In the gym, failing a rep or failing at a PR attempt is a great thing. Because that’s exactly the moment when you grow the strongest. Until you fail at a rep, you never truly know what your threshold is. You may be getting stronger rep by rep, day by day, but you never truly know how much you can go before you can’t go any more. Your mind is never met with true adversity in the gym. While you may struggle at reps, really failing a rep, I mean failing hard, not even able to budge the weight, gives your body and your mind a threshold and challenge.

You’ve suddenly realized there’s something you can’t do.

And you learn from that. You change up your programming, you change up your diet, you change your mindset, you change your behaviors, then get after it to attack the weight the next time to lift that barbell off the ground.

This is important in the gym and in life to fail because not only do we find motivation in that, but it reminds us that success and growth isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. If we continue to have everything given to us without the need of hard work, dedication, and intention then we’d go through life living with a dull flame, and excitement, achievement, and self-pride would hardly exist.

We must also keep in mind that rewards from success are not always monetary. Doing a good job at work or hitting a PR in the gym brings increased self-confidence, pride, and allows you to learn the steps that it takes to succeed so that you can apply it to the next goal you have set.

So train to fail. Embrace failure as something to learn from. You will never know your true potential until you reach your maximum threshold. From there, you will be able to recognize just how much it will take to achieve the goals that are important to you, and you’ll be informed and educated from the failures you’ve had to help you succeed in the future. All to help you become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest you can be.

“Good” Morning

I recently moved to New York City, and now instead of the bus, I ride the subway to get to work. I’ve written before about the start to your day, but as my commuting habits have changed, I experience and witness new behaviors and interactions, all that make me think quite a bit.

Typically the subways are very crowded in the morning. Crowded like, you’re literally shoulder to shoulder with others, crammed into a tight subway car at 8:30 in the morning. This isn’t the most comfortable way to start the day by any means.

That being said, it amazes me that so many people get so incredibly angry and frustrated, when the day has just begun.

Yes, there’s not much room for personal space or breathing room, but this is something that almost all 8 million people in NYC experience. Each individual commute is no different than the millions that are happening at the same time as you.

So when someone gets bumped into, or someone shoves their way onto the subway to cram themselves in, it can create a lot of tension, frustration, and even yelling. Presumably not long after we’ve all just woken up.

Now I’m not saying that these people should push their way into the subway car, or keep their backpacks and purses on while on the train, but confrontation, arguments, and self-mutterings only add to the stresses and frustrations of the daily commute.

It’s important to remember that the way to make change is by doing it with a smile. 

Not many people are morning people, but your own lack of sleep, personal dealings, and moods shouldn’t be pressed onto others if they aren’t acting in accordance to your will.

We’re all living together in a very crowded city, anger and argument will only lead to an even more frustrated, anxiety filled commute. 

So even if everything is going well in your commute, take your headphones off once in a while and get out of your own little world. Smile and chuckle to the person next to you as you both cram closer and closer together as more people fill the subway car.

Half of the reason why we continue hate our commute is because we ourselves take no action to make it better.

And if no one else is going to do it, you should.

Recognize that everyone on that subway, train, bus ride or walk is in the same position as you. You’re no different than the person who’s jammed up against you. So meet them with a smile instead of an eye-roll and sigh. Say hello instead of turning your music up louder.

Because while the city is so dense and crowded, disgruntled morning commutes could not bring people any farther apart and into their own world.

Start the day off with a smile to a stranger, and you just might set the tone for the whole rest of your day for each of you. 

Listening to Silence

Living in a big city, it’s hard to get away from noise. Horns honking, people shouting, construction blaring. That’s why so many of us cover our ears with music to drown some of it out. And while I’ve even written about the power of music in my life personally, sometimes there’s even more power in silence.

Today I took a walk to a nearby park to clear my head. And, being New York City, it was hardly a quiet trip. But in the noise of kids yelling and dogs barking, I was overtaken by a stillness and quietness inside my head.

All of the noise around me faded away and I was able to find peace.

How?

Through the power of breath and meditation.

Along my walk I really didn’t want to think about anything. In fact, I wanted to think about nothing. So I mindlessly walked around the park, watched people pass by, and the only thing on my mind was my deep breaths – in, and out.

As I continued walking I noticed that while there was so much around me that I heard, I wasn’t listening to any of it. 

And instead I began listening to the silence. The thoughts that began to come into my head. Things that made me pensive, reflective, and curious.

It sparked something within me to begin to plan and to be productive with these thoughts, and I realized on my way back home how deep into this meditative state I had become.

With all of the noise and the craziness that fills our lives, especially in recent times, we all need to remember to remove the headphones, to remove the space and sounds around us, and clear our minds.

Through deep breathing and focused meditation, we are able to listen to this silence and begin to ponder. Some thoughts that present themselves are easily ignored, while others stick around and begin to elaborate.

Focus your attention on what is important and let other thoughts go through breath.

If we are always letting the busyness of our lives consume us, we will never have time to let in thoughts and ideas about our lives, our friends, families, and things that we are grateful for. This can lead to a sense of sadness and loss of hope.

Because there’s a lot that we have that we should be grateful for. There’s a lot that we have that we should be thankful for. And there’s a lot more our minds can tell us about our wants and needs that will make us stronger, healthier, and happier.

We just need to give them the chance to present themselves when we meditate, breathe, and create silence in a world that seems so hard to ignore.

Don’t Stand Up Straight

The spine: the backbone (literally) of your entire body and being. Sending hundreds of conscious and subconscious nervous impulses every second to every part of your body allowing you to move, breathe, pump blood through your heart, LIVE. It’s no wonder why people care so much about having a healthy spine. Which is why I know that most of us have been told, or have thought for ourselves, that we should sit or stand up straight. But I’m here to tell you today that standing up straight is bad.

Why?

Because we shouldn’t be standing up straight, we should be standing up TALL. 

Standing up straight typically has the connotation of standing with a neutral spine. Neutral spine means supporting your spine to rest with its natural curvatures (lordotic or convex curve of the cervical spine, kyphotic or concave curve of the thoracic spine, and a lordotic and kyphotic curve of the lumbar and sacral spine respectively).

But this only paints a half, two dimensional picture. So usually when you’re standing, you think to stand up straight by pinching your shoulders back so you’re not hunching. But there’s so much more to posture than that.

Standing up TALL allows you to start your posture from the ground up, in all planes of motion. 

Having just neutral spine doesn’t mean from a side angle only. It means from the front, side, back, and every angle in between. And the only way to accomplish this is to stand tall.

Your feet are firmly planted on the ground about hip width apart, toes pointed forward or at an angle no greater than 30 degrees, your knees are slightly bent just so that they aren’t locked, your hips are even and space is created in your lumbar spine with tight glutes and core, your thoracic spine is promoted into a healthy position by a conscious contraction of your posterior chain (behind/back of your body) bringing your shoulders down and back forcing you to puff your chest out, your arms are resting to your side and palms facing inward toward your body, your head is rested directly on top of your body so a straight line can be drawn from the top of your head, through your neck, and down in between your feet.

Now you are standing straight, but you’re not quite there yet.

How to do stand TALL?

Well in this correct postural position, pretend that line running from the top of your head to your feet is actually a string. And imagine that the string is attached to a pulley above you. Now, slowly pretend as if someone is pulling that string, forcing you to be lifted up off of the ground, while remaining in this posture. 

Stand up and do this with me right now as you read this.

Do you feel the SPACE that has been created in all of your joints and each and every vertebrae? Do you feel the energy that is harnessed through a firm rooting in the floor? Seriously. Actively do this right now.

But here’s the catch, you’re still not quite standing tall.

Because the final component to good posture and standing tall is the way you will now carry yourself in this position. To truly stand tall each must now feel empowered with this postural vitality to carry on with your life and command your presence wherever you walk or sit.

When you stand up straight, you’re simply straightening your spine.

But posture is power. When you stand TALL you become confident – your character changes. You’re in charge and you are a presence, a force, and someone that people notice as you stand, or walk by.

Good posture allows your nervous system to be more efficient, promotes good health and increased vitality as you age, and can be significant in reducing injury.

Standing TALL allows you to become confident. A force that will drive you through your journey to become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest you can be. 

Digital Double Vision

It seems like ever since the introduction of smartphones, we’ve become obsessed with pictures. Seemingly to “capture moments so they last forever”. Every chance we get – every concert, event, and gathering we snap up as many pictures we can. At the time it seems like the smart idea, so that you’ll have those pictures and memories to look back on. But how many of us actually look back at every single picture we take? 

I’ve found that when I’m at a particular event, I have this double vision – looking through my phone screen to see what is actually bigger, brighter, and clearer behind it if I just put the phone down. 

Because sometimes what’s more important than being able to remember a moment, is to actually experience the moment so that the memory is engrained in your mind from your own immersion in the moment instead of spending the whole time trying to get the focus and lighting just right through a screen.

I’m not saying that taking pictures or videos on our smartphones is bad, in fact I love doing it. But what I am challenging us to do is to be more mindful of the frequency of those captured moments, and whether or not the actual moment itself is worth experiencing more than something you probably won’t look back on after you take them and share a few on social media. 

Don’t feel like you have to take pictures and videos of everything. Because if you do you’ll spend all of your time with digital double vision instead of using the gift of sight and all other senses to create a memory that’s much richer than anything a cell phone could capture.

If you focus on immersing yourself  in and experiencing moments instead of trying to document them, you might find yourself living a stronger, healthier, and happier life because of it. 

Having Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach

There’s a saying I always think of when I take too much food in a buffet line: “My eyes were bigger than my stomach”. And it seems like no matter how many times I’m in this situation and I say this to myself, I have a hard time learning to take less food. 

One of the more recent times I was in a buffet line I thought about this pretty hard. I took my plate and I quickly glanced down the line to see exactly what it was that looked good to me to help me scoop out proper proportions so that I knew I would finish everything I put on my plate, and get a little bit of everything. 

This saying, though, really started to mean a lot more to me as time went on. Because I think many people, myself included, often find themselves constantly seeking out new opportunities and grabbing for each one right as they come. Not realizing the amount of work involved later, or failing to taking into account other opportunities that may come our way in just a short amount of time, and sometimes they are ones that we may actually want more. 

When we take too much food and put it on our plate, we don’t leave room for the unknown that is ahead. We’re hungry, opportunists, and in the excitement of the moment when our salivary glands are pumping, reason subsides and impulse takes over.  

Sometimes we get lucky – what happens to fall on our plate at the beginning of the line ends up being the thing we want most and most of, and we don’t even take some items later down the line and instead just focus on that one main dish. But most of the time, we forget about all of the sides. The smaller, more manageable portioned foods that come in more variety, which too are very tasty. 

So when we sit back down at the table, we’re left with huge plate fulls of entrees with very little on the side.

So we start eating ravenously and with passion on something that seemed so exciting all but a few minutes ago, but then we’re left with a whole other piece of steak that we didn’t finish since we took too much at the start. 

All of this time and space we used to fill up our stomachs with this seemingly amazing food is soon not even finished and we’re left with half eaten portions, with nothing else to pick at. 

And it’s those side dishes we don’t make enough room for that often times compliment and make the main dish taste even better. 

We need to remember that there are times where spontaneity and impulse should be encouraged and cherished. There are times when it’s great to take everything on at the risk of not finishing it later. But we must also remember that a quick glance at what might be ahead can help us take on and pursue smaller, more manageable projects/tasks that still lead to the same larger goal of being satisfied and successful in our own way.  

We can always get seconds if we want more, so we should always plan on finishing our firsts. And when we go back for more we’ll be even more informed and careful about what it is we really want the next time around. Or we may find out that we’re full enough as is. 

All to say that with food and with life’s opportunities and ventures, a careful and rational assessment of what may come to help choose, realize and take on what is most important to us, will help us live a stronger, healthier, and ultimately happier and more satisfied life. (And stomach.)