Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Put the Phone Away and Live Your Life

Living in the moment is something most of us struggle with, and it's only becoming more difficult with modern technology. No matter where we are physically, it's becoming increasingly easy to be elsewhere mentally. Step into any crowded public place... there are people talking on the phone, listening to music, playing games on their iPads, updating their Facebook statuses. Our bodies may be present, but our minds certainly are not.

I'm just as guilty as anyone else. Any time I find myself with nothing to immediately occupy my mind, my first instinct is to take out my phone... check Facebook, check email, check Instagram, play Candy Crush. At times, I'll even do this when I'm with people. Not proud of it. If I have a long walk ahead of me and no one to talk to, I'll call a family member... god forbid I have nothing to do for 15 minutes. Thankfully, my affliction hasn't yet advanced to the point of walking around in public with headphones on. If I ever get to that point, please punch me in the genitals. I'll thank you later.

But I can't help but wonder... what are we missing out on? We all walk by hundreds, if not thousands of people each day. We sit next to them on the subway. We see them in the grocery store. Yet we don't say hello. Our minds are off in another world. Our own little world is comfortable that's for sure... we stick to the people we like, the things we know... it's easy and comforting. We're smitten by that. But, as I'm understanding more and more, closing ourselves off like this misses the bigger picture. Every time we choose to be absent, we pass up a chance to enhance our personal relationships, or to meet someone special who could have an impact on our lives. How do we know what we don't know if we don't even know what we're missing? (What???.)

Approach life with a positive attitude. Any interaction with another person is a chance to brighten their day and yours. A smile is contagious; give a little happy and you'll get a lot more in return. Recently I've gotten to know some of my coworkers a little more... people I've known for months, but perhaps didn't dig deep enough and really get to know them. It's amazing how far a positive attitude can go in getting people to open up. It turns out, I work with some pretty amazing people. Now, I could have chosen to keep to myself, but I would have completely missed out on what they have to offer. Ask questions. Ask how people are doing, what's going on in their lives, even if you think you already know. And most importantly, listen to what they have to say. You may be surprised where that takes you.

Do good things for good people. The other day I helped two of my friends move into their new apartment. It was a long, long day, with hours and hours of driving, carrying heavy shit up three flights of stairs... just exhausting. No one likes moving. But to be honest, I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Saturday than to spend some quality time with people I really care about, helping them start a new life together. Sure it was hard work, and I could have fallen down three flights of stairs together with a giant armoire, but these are the experiences that build character and cultivate relationships. Go into it knowing this and I promise you you'll find it worthwhile, and not just in hindsight. We even found this gem, thanks to craigslist... it's all about the memories (even if these happen to be someone else's).

Talk to strangers. This past weekend at work (Whole Foods), I was in the break room eating my breakfast. Normally I just ignore the people I don't know and mess around on my phone, but on this day, a coworker from the seafood department asked about my Botticello Farms t-shirt. It's my grandfather's brother's farm, I guess my great uncle, grand uncle, if either one of those is a thing. Anyway, it turns out this guy knows all of the Botticellos, all of my distant relatives that I've never really gotten to know. He's like my long lost cousin. I've worked with him since last Winter, and I had no idea. What else am I missing out on by ignoring those around me?

Say yes more. Last weekend, I made dinner with my friend Amanda. Jambalaya with cauliflower rice and a side salad from my garden. Delicious and amazing. But a dinner like that is pretty status quo for us. After dinner, Amanda, her sister, and her sister's friend wanted to hang out and uh, eat sandwiches (How I Met Your Mother reference). Normally I would say no; it's not something I like to do often. But I decided to partake because I don't always get to hang out with Amanda as much as I'd like. In the end, it turned into one of the most fun, hilarious nights I've had in a long time, and we're all a little closer now because of it.

Life is what you make of it... you get out what you put in. Be present more. Forget about what's going on in the intrawebs, or in your social media world, or on your cell phone, and be mentally where you are physically. Stop and smell the roses. Cultivate relationships. Spark up a conversation with a stranger. Learn something new. Smile. Appreciate the moment. 

This is a reminder for everyone, myself included... there's only one moment and it's right now. Your life is right in front of you. Don't miss it.


  1. I love this post more than words can express. Being present and disconnecting from the internet is such an important thing that not enough people do. Deleting my facebook was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am really wanting to be more present and in tune with myself and taking steps like the ones you mention help a lot.

    Hanging out with great friends is great too! That night was so fun! We are definitely watching those videos on Friday when we hang out lol like 80 times.

    1. Thank you Amanda! At least 80 times lol

  2. ...and this is how we utterly improve our world. Nice work putting it out there Brendan.
    Great graph....."shit you don't know, you don't know" :-D