I like getting emails. Please send them. I don’t always answer but I read everything and try to answer. 8pm is a bad time to email me because I go to sleep around them and by morning time the email might be buried and I won’t see it. Here are some emails I got last night and I answered them. I’m only taking snippets of the emails here.
EMAIL ONE: Anxiety
This email was about my newsletter I sent out yesterday (see bottom of this article for link).
“Waking up @ 4:00 am usually means you have important stuff to resolve (maybe more than disciplining the kids); but you probably know that. so let go of your anxiety, truly relax (if that is possible for you) and it will surface.”
My response: I go to sleep at 8pm so 4am is when I usually wake up, give or take.
Bonus response: (i.e. not in the email I sent back.): Whenever you think someone else is anxious or angry, look in the mirror. Sometimes when I think Claudia is anxious about something, for instance, it’s mostly because I’m worried she’s upset at me about something. Those are the times when I am most anxious. But waking up at 4am for me is pleasure. Nothing to be anxious about at 4am because nobody is up. Nobody is chasing me. I have no reason to “fight” or “flight”.
EMAIL TWO: Young Entrepreneur
“How much would you charge to mentor a 24 year-old who is seeking to start his own company but is afraid he will fail?”
My response: “I would charge nothing. You know, when you’re 24 maybe you should fail. Failure is success because you can learn 1000 things from each failure. Success is also success but could lead to later failure. Either way you will do fine. Just start it and don’t think too many thoughts about failure or success. Think instead: am I solving a problem for people? How will you know the answer to your question? If people tell you you are helping them. And then if people pay you to help them.
So just start and see if those two things happen.
If they don’t then you failed. Congratulations and good luck on your next adventure when you are 25. And when you are 26.”
EMAIL THREE: Suicide
“James…I was incredulous when I read this sentence that you wrote in a recent
post: “I considered [suicide] many times but always the thought of my
kids stops me. I also always reminded myself that whenever things got
that bad it always seemed to get better at some point and I was always glad I
didn’t do it.” Incredulous, because from where I sit, you now seem
to have it all (materially and spiritually). A great wife that you love and
loves you. Great kids that love you and you love them. Money (which you made) to
provide well for your loved ones. Good health. That the thought of suicide
crossed your mind at some point in the not too distant past, makes you that much
more human, and makes what you write even more interesting.”
My response: “Thanks M, everyone deals with their own internal definitions of
happiness. Every day is hard to know what it means. Does it mean
getting everything? Or does it mean wanting nothing?
Thanks for the email. What are you up to?”
Bonus response: Someone once told me, “you never know what someone is worth until they declare bankruptcy”. The same is true about everything, not just money. But marriage, career, love, emotions, mental illness. I’m not saying I’m bankrupt in any of these ways. But we’ve all had many ups and downs. We’ve all been on the floor. Some people have it much worse. Some people starve to death when they are children. This is horrible. Everyone can easily look at that and say, “a 4 year old is starving to death today so I have no right to be sad.” And yet, everyone has the right to be sad. And yet, how dare we! It’s a contradiction.
When we focus on our own journey, we indirectly help the four year old? How so? Think about this: Hurricane Katrina shut down 95% of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. So the price of oil spiked. So congress gave incentives to farmers to use corn to make biofuel. So the price of corn shot up. So the price of tortillas in Mexico shot up. So poor Mexican tortilla makers went out of business. So urban centers in Mexico got more overpopulated and poor Mexicans starved. Another thing: with corn so expensive it became more expensive to feed cows. So the price of beef shot up. Everyone starved.
Every one thing effects everything else (can someone please tell me if it’s “effects” or “affects”). The only thing you really have control over is your own feelings of peace. Nobody else’s. So right this second, can you feel a tiny bit more peaceful. Let’s say you are really angry at your boss. He just passed you up for a promotion. What can you do this second? Instead of imaging the big argument you will have with him and all the ways it will play out, just acknowledge, “I am really angry at my boss”. This puts a little distance between you and the anger. Instead of you being a character in the movie, you are now an audience of the movie. It’s still the same movie (“Anger at Boss”, rated R, starring me and boss). But at least now you can enjoy the popcorn. And leave at the end.
EMAIL FOUR: “SHIT”
The emailer, who is a good friend of mine so I hope she doesn’t mind I share part of her email, was worried about my use of the word “shit” in yesterday’s newsletter.
Part of her email: ”
Reminds me of the story, which you’ve probably heard, of the two zen monks walking by the river. They find a prostitute there. The prostitute can’t get across the river because she doesn’t want to get her clothes wet. One zen monk picks her up and carries her over the river and puts her down. The zen monks keep walking but the other monk is very agitated. Finally he says, “why did you touch that prostitute, you know its unclean to do that and not appropriate for us?” The first zen monk says, “i put her down at the river. why are you still carrying her?”
I find all the time what hurts us (not you or me, but people in general) is not the event, but what we keep in our head after the event. The worrying, the anxiety, the judging – all of these things fill up the brain, giving our minds something to do when really we want to “fire” the mind.
How is starting a new practice going? Are you making people look good? What are ten ways people can look a lot better but without invasive surgery or procedures? ”