8 Cool Things I Found in January

Lineback y Pong in January

Lineback y Pong in January [California]

My new year started in November when I turned 34, so I’ve been steadily working on picking up some new habits and practices and finally getting that first pull up in. I am the proud owner of 1 hammer grip pull up and feeling pretty good about the doorway bar that will now get a little more of an energetic use. Other things that have made me stand up and shout “cooooooool!” this month:

1. The documentary “Minimalism”: It’s on Netflix and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in asking the hard questions about Why we live how we do and is open to flipping the script. Seeing Minimalism put a button on a two-year journey since reading Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less, and The Magic Art of Tidying. Because things I’ve been growing increasingly uncomfortable with any and all shopping malls, headlines and advertisements about Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and my ever-growing distaste for working in social media and being exposed to complaining twenty. four. seven. I had just recently listened to Joshua Fields Millburn when he popped up on the School of Greatness podcast – “Living with Less” – and was already hooked on exploring practical minimalism more, but after viewing the film and seeing the portraits of people already living this way, I’m 100% sold on starting this practice and journey because I can only see what there is to gain. If I stay at the average American consumption rate (and I’ve streamlined quite a bit these past two years, with the east coast move + new habits), I have everything to lose. My largest takeaways after sitting with it:

  • I want fewer things in my life and am seeking more quality relationships with great people
  • I want to live, give and consume with intention
  • Removing inconsequential choices with stuff I don’t value relieves me of decision making fatigue – energy and time I get to put into stuff I do care about
  • It doesn’t make sense to waste time on ordinary living when you admit you want an extraordinary life
  • “Financial freedom means being able to wake up every day and spend it however you please” <— preach

A treat for SF’ers: The film features a quick cameo of Samovar in the Castro. I miss that place. I had a great first date there once where we shut the place down talking, and I never heard from him again. I don’t miss dating in SF.

2. White space: Meditating is hit or miss for me, even when I reduce it down to “just for 3 minutes. just a set a timer for 3 minutes. Why is this so hard.” So I’m trying out White Space – an uninterrupted and undistracted block of time to sit and think creatively, at most with a pen and paper. I do set a timer. It’s hard not to devolve into just creating a To Do list, but I’m sticking to the intention to not try to “be productive” and instead focus on solving problems creatively and thinking up creative ways to do something that is traditionally transactional (i.e. starting a meeting). I’ve been practicing writing down 10 ideas a day and enjoy what comes out of a purposefully wandering mind, vs my distracted mind. Because if left unchecked, I will sit in a coffee shop chair all day, next to a crossword and book, drinking cold brew and texting Laura Lineback. That could go on for hours.

3. Reading in the morning: I’ve been trying to get better at my morning routine again and I realized I like starting my day reading ideas or learning something. Because the past 8 years has been starting my day with screens and other people’s emergencies. Boo that shit. So I just started James Altucher’s Reinvent Yourself and am enjoying it every day. The short chapters (and their titles) read and digest like blogs. Altucher is the guy who spends more time listening so he can learn, and that’s what I want to do, so I’m reading 1-2 chapters a day. I could blow through more in a sitting, but I’m making myself pause to reflect and regularly do a writing and application exercise after (created on the fly), and using it to motivate me on projects and ideas. My favorite discovered quote so far is Picasso’s “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”  I also really like “How to Get an MBA from Eminem” and lessons learned from Superman.

4. Pen to paper: In my quest for less screen time I realized I often sacrifice Effectiveness for “Efficiency” when I choose to start most projects on a computer screen instead of on a note pad. Starting with a screen has failed me for many reasons – distractions being just one of them. I’ll see how it pans out in the long term, since the paper pages are just one more thing to collect and digest/file/transfer to the next stage of the (usually digital) project, but for now, I’ll take the reduced screen time as the priority win here. My eyes have been hurting since 2009 and if I want that to change, I have to do something about it myself. Today I drafted a concept for a brochure in 10 minutes, instead of dicking around on Canva for 45. I recorded myself explaining it to my design teammate and sent him the video to digest on his own time. That felt like a much better use of my time.

5. John Legend’s new album “DARKNESS AND LIGHT.” Favorite songs include Overload, for when Miguel comes in. I Know Better because of the soul gospel flavor. The sing-songy urgency of Love Me Now. I will be listening to this album on repeat while I cook dinners for a loooong time these next few winter months.

6. Green plantains: The neighborhood I live and play in has dense Caribbean communities, so green plantains are impulse items as soon as you walk into the Stop & Shop. I forgot how much I love them as a starchy side, so I’ve been getting back to peeling, slicing, coconut oil-spraying, and baking them into chewy fries again. A nice gentleman in the store the other day was buying about 15 times more than I was and told me he boils them, which I’ve never thought to do. So I’ll try that next.

7. The Science of People/ Vanessa Van Edwards: Years ago I used to pitch a mobile phone application that helped protect kids from predators, which led me to pitching (then) Vanessa Van Petten who was authoring Radical Parenting. I was surprised and stoked to see she had taken on behavioral science and now I’m sucked in by her topics, like the science of Charisma, and how a power stance (think Superhero stance) increases Testosterone, while a non-power position (shoulders hunched, hands directly in front of your body) lowers Testosterone/increases Cortisol, the stress hormone. And then when she covers how the non-power body position is activated multiple times a day by mostly everyone because it’s the same position we take when we check our phones – mind blown. Boom. So i’m going to dig into her materials more and see what else I can learn. I also find her to be an engaging speaker and I’m looking forward to seeing what other products come out of her team at The Science of People.

8. Block Site app: It’s a Google Chrome plug in. Enter in the site you want to block. Then enter in the site you want that blocked URL to reroute to. I chose to block Facebook, and reroute myself to ZenHabits.net or CSzBoston.com, to remind me of my goals and purpose. A similar practice could be changing a frequently entered password to spell out a goal you have, as a little reminder hack.



2 thoughts on “8 Cool Things I Found in January

  1. Keep these up Courtney. They are awesome! Just read your February post and came back to read this one! You are inspiring.

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