Surviving Guilt

I was seventeen when my grandmother died. It was not a particularly traumatizing death: she was older, had smoked her whole life, and battled with complications from emphysema. It’s always sad when a family member dies, my mother and her siblings were upset, but it was not a shocking death. There is a sort of inevitable justice when someone from an older generation dies. You hate to see them go, but we all have to go at some point and at least they got a full ride’s worth.

During the funeral, I linked up with two cousins of mine, David and Brandon. David was a little older and Brandon a little younger, but we were all essentially the same age. I saw David fairly frequently growing up, Brandon a little less due to his growing up a few states away. I hadn’t really kept in touch with either of them as we all went through our respective disillusioned teen years. At the funeral, someone suggested that we leave the ceremony a little early and go back to my grandmother’s house. Frankly, we were bored by the proceedings and wanted to get out of the grave yard. Our parents needed to stay on the grounds for a little longer, but were fine with the idea, as everyone would be meeting back there for reception. 

The three of us talked a bit on the ride and caught up on our respective lives. Brandon was more into sports. He and I both played golf. Though I wouldn’t admit it then, he was better than I was. David was more into music. Though I played in a band, when David talked about the punk shows he went to, I felt insurmountably less cool for not having heard of his favorite bands.

We were all into booze and drugs.

To varying degrees. We all had some chemical experiments. I got the sense that I had traveled the furthest down the rabbit hole at that point. It’s hard to communicate to an outsider, but when you find a certain substance common place and others react with too much enthusiasm or trepidation you know who’s had more trips around the ferris wheel. It’s hard to say who was the most accomplished drinker. We were all experienced. 

I don’t know who suggested it first, but someone had the idea that we should go in and tap into the liquid resources for the reception. Being underage, we would have to get some drinks in before everyone got back to the house and be discreet about it. The idea sounded good to all of us. We poured some drinks and commenced to do what we did. 

The funeral proceedings ended up taking our parents and family members a while, so we had longer than expected with the bottle. By the time everyone arrived, there was no hiding how much we had drank either by the amount of booze drained from the bottle or our hazed condition. Our parents weren’t necessarily happy about it, but I don’t think there was a single family member shocked that we had drank. Given the day’s occasion, we were given a pass for drinking underage. 

I can’t speak for the other two, but I blacked out. I came to in a sleeping bag on my grandmother’s living room floor. My cousins were on the couches and floor around me. I certainly hadn’t expected, planned or wanted to drink to that degree, but it was the sort of thing that just happened. I felt guilty for drinking that way at my grandmother’s funeral, but it was the sort of thing that just happened.

To be honest, I don’t know if I ever saw Brandon and David at the same time again. I know I saw David at a couple of weddings thereafter, but we didn’t stay in touch.


Brandon and David are now dead. Brandon died a few years ago, he was thirty one. David died this past year, he was thirty six. Both as a result of the abuse of drugs and alcohol. I have been sober for over nine years. 


As I write that, I feel the guilt come on. There is no justice in that reality. When I think back to that meeting of teenagers at our grandmother’s funeral, we were all in the same boat. I distinctly remember that my own drug taking was a bit heavier than the other two. To think that of the three of us, I am the only one who survived, I am the only one who made it out of the mess of drug and alcohol abuse… Why am I the one who got sober? Why am I the one who got to live? I did nothing special to merit the gift; they did nothing wrong to merit the punishment.

I feel particularly guilty to their parents. Sometimes I see them express their pain on social media, how they miss their child who they outlived. Who I outlived. I imagine they ask themselves all the questions I ask myself, what could have been done differently? How could it have been possible for their children to grow older and see more of life? And yet, here I am, growing older, seeing more of life. I got sober out of what feels like dumb luck. I went to a twelve step meeting and listened. I’d been before and not listened. It’s hard to pin down why that even worked out for me when it did. 

I can’t pin it down to intelligence. Smart people die of drug overdoses. People who have displayed no intelligence their whole life get sober. Trust me, I’ve met both types. It’s not that I possess some greater will power. This is a common misconception about sobriety. I drank every day not wanting to drink. I couldn’t stop using my will power. I tried for years. I knew I had a problem. Anyone who reaches the everyday or truly self destructive level of drinking knows that they need to stop to live, but stopping based on your own mind just doesn’t seem to work. I wasn’t sent to any facility, there was no intervention, no dramatic event that preceded me getting sober. It just happened one day after years of it needing to happen. 

Why did it happen to me and not my two cousins? Why are they dead and why am I alive?

Of course, I’ll never know the answer to these questions. I can only know how I will respond in the absence of an answer. I can be grateful that I am able to live life today, even if it is possible because of an unmerited gift. I can share my story. I can do my best to try and help others who are getting sober. I can live my life fully. Play the sports I want to play; listen to the music I want to listen to; doing the work I want to do. Even if I don’t know why I have it, I can make the most of this chance that I’ve been given. It’s clear that living life is no guarantee, whether you are guilty or not.

Life’s Work Risk Analysis

If you have a steady job, keeping it is the safest thing you can do. Going after something you’re passionate about is risky. There are a number of aspects of your life put at risk: finance, emotion, and reputation to name a few. If you are going to leave behind the standard career path, these are the risks you assume. That is the dominant narrative anyway.

Before becoming a full-time fitness coach, I worked as a university administrator. I had a good job title at a respectable institution, a team of employees reporting to me, and a decent salary with a robust benefits package. I had been promoted a number of times and my boss had talked to me about taking the next step in the universe of higher education administration. I was safe. 

I wanted none of it. I remember consciously telling myself to respond diplomatically to the possibility of advancing further in the system. My inner voice was screaming “No!” While the next step up would clearly distinguish me as someone with a bright career, my insides recoiled at the notion of taking one more step down that path. That said, I didn’t know what to do. I had carved out a nice piece of territory for myself in the system and couldn’t rightly just give it up. That would be too risky. 

While I had looked at postings on HigherEdJobs.com, I knew that moving to another university system would not help me. My skills and qualifications would lead me to the same type of role in a different setting. Maybe a bump in pay or more prestigious institution, but the nature of my work and my daily life’s dynamics would not change.

For quite some time I had held onto the clandestine notion that I could change lives and become a fitness coach. Years prior, I had gotten certified to coach and did so on the weekends as a part-time passion project. It gave me a way to further cultivate my love of fitness and nourish my desire to connect with and help people. There were a number of full-time fitness coaches at the gym where I coached. While I could fantasize about joining their ranks, I didn’t know if I could make the same sort of living working in fitness. Additionally, I worried about whether my passion for fitness would endure if it became my full-time job, not just a hobby. Lastly, what if I couldn’t measure up to the standard of a full-time fitness coach? I knew enough to know that the job demanded a lot of personality in addition to skill and knowledge. What if I tried and failed? My reputation would be forever stained as someone on a successful track who gave it up to fail. Also, again, it’s worth repeating, what about the money?

None of those risks were present in my university job. I had financial security, personal validation as a successful professional, and respect of people around me. If I left my administrative job, I would either make a living coaching or fail fantastically have no way to support myself. There was a lot of risk in leaving. The risk analysis that kept me in my administrative job looked a little like this:

Stay in JobLeave and FailLeave and “Works”
FinanceLow Risk (Felt satisfied)High Risk (Worst case)Medium Risk (could I make enough money?)
EmotionMedium Risk (Felt unsatisfied)High Risk (Would be ashamed)Medium Risk (would I still feel the same about fitness?)
ReputationLow Risk (Felt respected)High Risk (Would be viewed as failure by both administrative and fitness professionals)Medium Risk (Would people respect me as a fitness coach in the same way as a university administrator?)

 However, I was miserable in the day to day of my administrative job. The prospect of progressing deeper into that world filled me with dread. That dread was a key component to the reappraisal of my situation’s risk analysis. What if I stay in higher education administration for the next thirty years and felt that dread every single day? What if I lived my whole life with contempt for what I had to do to make a living? Conversely, what if I could earn a living doing something I loved? What if I enjoyed the place where I went to work? What I was risking by staying was a lifetime of unfulfilling work. 

I also began to reexamine the prospect of what it would look like to fail at being a full-time coach. If that was the case, what would I do? Well, I would probably go back to some form of administrative work. I would apply for jobs and have years of experience advancing within a certain field. I would have to explain a gap in my resume, but I would be able to say that the reason I had the gap was because I took a shot at what I was passionate about. Would people really hold that against me? I certainly wouldn’t look down on anyone who took a shot at something special or different. 

Lastly, I looked at the financial risk with a bit more of a realistic lens. Working in higher education is not the most lucrative field. While I was content with my salary, I was in no way wealthy. Additionally, as I stated, at the gym where I coached part-time, there were a number of full-time coaches. While they didn’t seem wealthy, they were also clearly making a living and had been sustaining themselves in that profession for years.

My newly thought out risk analysis looked more like this:

Stay in JobLeave and FailLeave and Works
FinanceLow RiskMedium Risk (Would take a hit, but could resume career track)Low Risk (I knew fitness coaches making a living)
EmotionVery High Risk (A lifetime of dissatisfaction)Low Risk (Would be unfortunate to fail, but I would have an answer)Low Risk (Even if passion waned, it would be more enjoyable than a cubicle)
ReputationLow RiskLow Risk (Few people judge someone for taking a shot at something special)Low Risk (I would be a person serving others in a field I enjoyed) 

It became clear that despite what one may initially think, the riskiest prospect was staying in my current line of work. I would be risking an entire lifetime of fulfilling and enjoyable work. Though there was the possibility of failure of making it as a full-time fitness coach, I could still resume my conventional career. That’s the thing about the conventional path, it’s pretty widely available. If I were to leave and it worked out, I had the highest possible benefits: having a career I loved and a workplace I was happy to go to every day.

As it worked out, I left the  administrative job and started coaching. The life of a fitness professional has not been without challenges in the emotional, reputational, or financial realms, but I have not regretted that decision for one second. It baffles me that I was kept in a line of work I found unsatisfying so long out of fear of losing something. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. There is a false sense of fear that you will be risking too much by pursuing a passion. However, if you are in a job you dislike, you are already in the worst case scenario. We spend too much of our time at work for it to not be something that we feel a calling for. An accurate risk assessment proves not that you should value stability over fulfillment, but that you should seek out meaning and settle for stability in a worst case scenario. We are taught that stability and safety are of the highest value, but this is inaccurate. Meaning, passion, and purpose are the highest ideals. Stability should only be sought in a worst case scenario.    

Desire to Train: Physicality and Life’s Work

The desire for a perfect compass that always points to true north is shared by many travelers, but often times the path we travel is instead led by contours of rock and soil that make passage not just possible, but enjoyable.


Strength and conditioning, as with seemingly all other aspects of modern life, has advanced technically and analytically with time. There are constant innovations in equipment for both completing exercises and measuring the output of athletes. Strength and conditioning coaches can look at their athlete’s heart rate monitors, test an individual’s maximum oxygen intake, and even measure the speed with which an athlete moves a weight in a given lift. More and more professionals are tracking sleep, dietary choices, and recovery to maximize results.  Individuals who study the science and practice of strength and conditioning are constantly looking for new ways to deliver, measure and assess the best programs for their athletes.

Despite these advances, many grey areas still exist in the world of strength and conditioning. The data is still far from exact. Therefore, many rely on experience in the practice. One such method is “Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).” In this method,  an athlete is given an exercise with a prescribed number of sets and repetitions; they are also given an RPE score on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, if an athlete is told to do a set of squats with an RPE of 8, the athlete should feel like at the end of their set they could have done a couple more repetitions. If the prescription was for a set of 5 repetitions with an RPE of 10, then the athlete should feel like there were no more possible repetitions left when completed. This method allows an athlete to autoregulate their day’s training based on how they feel that day. Some days an athlete feels well rested and is able to hit a heavy weight with an RPE of 6; on days where the athlete feels sluggish, they will use the same weight for an RPE of 8.

A related “soft” measure that strength and conditioning coaches may collect from an athlete is a “Desire to Train” score. At the beginning of each day, an athlete will simply log their desire to be in the weight room or at the track on a scale of 1to 5. This may be a subjective score that is prone to individual variation (some people just like training more than others), but it provides a valuable insight into how hard an athlete should push or lay off. A low desire to train may indicate the end of a long hard training cycle where a period of rest is needed. It may indicate that an athlete has not slept or eaten enough to fuel their training. It could mean that life outside of sport has been stressful and their energy has been spent on mental rather than physical exertion. These are all good things for a strength and conditioning coach to know. Collecting a Desire to Train score can tell a coach and athlete when it is time to back off, rest, or reformulate a training plan. 


While most of us do not have anything riding on our physical performance, I would like to highlight the importance of this lesson to our everyday lives. 

What is your Desire to Complete Life’s Work score when you get up each morning to take on a new day?

Just as physical training takes energy and effort, so does life’s work. There will be days when you feel like you’re ready to attack the world and take on all comers, do it. There may be days where just showing up and going through the motions is what you have in the tank, that’s fine too. But examine the data. What was present when you felt like taking on the world? What were the circumstances that led you to just go through the motions? It may be due to factors such as a good night’s sleep or something out of your control such as a death in the family, those are still factors worth noting. Advanced strength and conditioning programs undulate and vary. There are high days and low days. Life works in the same fashion.

The highs and lows of daily variation aside, there is another important lesson to glean from the Desire to Train metric: burnout and change in focus. If an athlete is consistently reporting a very low Desire to Train, a strength and conditioning coach needs to look at whether the individual has overtrained and a significant rest or deload period is required in order to restore the athlete’s central nervous system. Likewise in life, a consistent period of days where your desire to meet the demands of Life’s Work may mean that it is time for a vacation or a few days off. 

What is more, a consistent low Desire to Train may mean a larger question needs to be asked of an athlete: do you want to keep doing this? Athletic careers don’t last forever and when the spiritual fire is out, why continue on? This is a hard conversation to have. Many athletes identify themselves with their sport and their training. If they stop, who will they be? What will they do? Again, the parallels to Life’s Work are strong. If you wake up consistently not wanting to go to your job, should that be the place you spend the majority of your time? If the idea of continuing on in your current line of work seems daunting, do you want to keep doing this work? 

Not all paths are endless. Sometimes you reach a trail’s end. This requires asking some deep questions. What is it you truly want to do? Who are you really if you are not your job or career? What will wake you up with a desire to commence Life’s Work each day? Your previous data can be a guide. When was the last day you were fired up to do life’s work? What was present? When did you start just going through the motions? What was lost?  

Many athletes continue on in training because it is what they have done, but not always what they continue to want to do. Similarly, many people continue on their paths because it is the one they have been walking. Just as an athlete can take up something else with their physical activity, you can take up a new challenge for your Life’s Work. Either way, you should have a high “Desire to Train” score to do the work.

What’s Really Important?

My guest this week is Zack Gould. Zack is a father, husband, and entrepreneur, in that order. Zack co-founded G&N insurance ten years ago and Bobble On business consulting last year. What’s more, he lives an intentional life focused on identifying what is truly important and putting all of himself into those efforts. Through a dedication to learning and personal development, Zack has embodied the journey towards quality over quantity. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, or here:

http://makingkairos.libsyn.com/whats-really-important

Discussed in this episode:

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

The Go Giver by Bob Burg

Brian Koppleman “Why You Should Read Fiction”

Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game

Entre Leadership – Art Williams “Accomplishing Impossible Goals”

Social Media

Instagram

@zgonig

@bobbleoninc

@gninsurance

Twitter

@zginsures

@insurewithgandn

Podcast

https://bobbleon.com/bobbleon-podcast/

Websites

Life Is Only Falsifiable

“Our knowledge can be only finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge

The work of Karl Popper is indispensable for any treatment of the Philosophy of Science. Popper’s most significant contribution is in the concept of falsifiability. According to Popper, in order for any theory to claim a scientific basis, it must be possible for the theory or hypothesis to be proven wrong by disconfirming data. This means that a scientific claim is never proven correct; it is only not proven false. In other words, given the existing data, one formulates a theory or hypothesis and that claim is evaluated against observations that would possibly prove it false. This notion helps us distinguish scientific claims from faith or intuition based claims, which hold no similar standard.

As a young student of philosophy with a rationalist sensibility, I found Popper’s work well reasoned. Taking a course in Philosophy of Science was a practical endeavor. It certainly seemed to me that the world at large would benefit from a concrete criteria of what is and is not a scientific claim and benefits from having a scientific approach to problem solving and forming questions in general.

I had no idea that falsifiability would come to my aid during a much less rational point of my life.

As I have written about before, after college I entered a PhD program, studying political philosophy. After just one semester, I found myself to be as profoundly unhappy, dissatisfied, and depressed as I have ever been. I knew that I had to leave the program. I would not have lasted another semester; this was not based on academics, but personal survival.

Leaving that program shook me to my core. I had long formulated an identity around being an intellectual and getting a PhD was an essential component to that identity. Thinking and writing about practical problems of philosophy was to be my life’s work. Who was I going to be if not that? What was I going to do?

During the dark period of unknowing that followed, I had one conversation with my father that was particularly helpful and quite freeing. After a soliloquy of dread about my thenstate of loss of purpose and how would I ever find an alternative, my father, who is a doctor, stated, “I think of it like the practice of medicine, you can’t know you are making the right decision. You can only look at the best available data, apply your training, and make a decision. You made a decision. Based on how you did in school, it was a reasonable decision, but it didn’t work out. It’s been falsified. Now you have to try and find something else.”  

The logic of this reasoning hit me hard in the best sort of way. Of course this was true. This was the only scientific way to look at life. While we certainly want to make the correct choices in life, life’s decisions are made without any sort of perfect knowledge. You can only make a best attempt with the data available and see if the experiment is successful. If the theory is tested and proven invalid, you go back to the drawing board. There is no value judgement based on a lack of success because we can never really know what is ultimately successful, we can only know what hasn’t been proven wrong yet. My escape from the “dark period of unknowing” wasn’t fueled by “finding the answer,” it was by realizing that we cannot know. Life is experimental. Life is only falsifiable.

Joie De Vivre: A Case For Reading Fiction

More often than not, when I talk to people about what they read, I’ll hear something to the effect of “I only really read nonfiction. If I’m going to invest the time in a book, I want to get some tangible take away.” This makes me sad.

Given my proclivities as a child and young person, my advocating that people read more seems hypocritical. As a child, I didn’t like to read. I liked watching TV, playing GI Joes or Ninja Turtles, and watching TV. My father, who grew up a voracious reader hated it and once punished me for getting in trouble at school by having me read a book. I love that book to this day. In college, the switch flipped. As a double major in Political Science and Philosophy, I had a ton of reading assigned–dense, complex reading. I actually did it. For my electives, I opted to take courses in literature and English, because the books assigned were enjoyable novels. Most of my classmates didn’t do the reading; I read everything. 

After graduation, I still read a lot. I started every day of my job search period by reading some interesting book, not finding a job. I stayed engaged in philosophy and politics. I also received recommendations for fiction that lead me to some new interesting authors. I’ve never been the fastest reader, but I always try to keep a couple books going at a time. Usually something hard and objective, something more philosophical, and something fictional or story based. I’ll admit, getting a job and a life has meant that I don’t read as much as I would like, but I keep at it. 

A couple notes before I get into the actual topic of this essay. First, I have tried to use an electronic reader, in my case a Kindle. The practicality of having multiple books held in one sleek object was great. The Kindle saved space on my dining room, coffee and bedside tables to be sure. But, I just couldn’t stick with it. I like real books. I underline some, flip back pages, and concentrate better on a page than a screen. Mostly, I just like the feeling of an actual book. Second, reading is reading; listening is listening. While listening to an audiobook is certainly nothing to be critical of, compared to the myriad of other ways of spending your time, it’s listening, not reading. Does it feel easier than reading an actual book? That’s because it is. If you listen to an audiobook in the car because reading an actual book would take your attention dangerously away from the road, you’re acknowledging that you use more attention and are more engaged with actual reading than listening. If I say I’ve read a book, I’ve read it. If you listen to a book and say you’ve read it, that doesn’t count…in my book.

The statement “Nobody reads anymore” feels like I’m either an old man saying “kids these days” or a school librarian crafting a pitch for the next book fair. From an intellectual standpoint, I don’t think I have to make much of an argument. I think everyone knows that the next set of Nobel prize winners will have an office full of books rather than a browsing history strewn with TED Talks and Netflix documentaries (probably worth noting that the people giving TED Talks and making Netflix documentaries also have offices full of books).

The issue I’m taking up is perhaps even more fringe. Of the people who read the occasional book, no one seems to be reading any fiction! In order to be a big picture thinker, people read Sapiens, and maybe bulk up their intellectual cred by reading Homo Deus as well. In order to start winning at every turn in their career, people grab Crushing It or the Four Hour Work Week. In order to gain some insight into their emotional health, people read Daring Greatly or The Power of Now. All of these are great books to read, they actually come from a great tradition of nonfiction literature that addresses these topics, but they’re not the only books to read. 

I actually think there’s an argument to be made that reading fiction would make you a better producer of things. I could argue that engaging your imagination in a creative sphere for prolonged periods of time would allow you to problem solve in a more effective manner. I am not really interested in making that argument, but I just want to note that it could be made.

Joie de vivre is a french phrase that translates to “the joy of living.” If you don’t intrinsically know what the phrase is alluding to, the situation is worse than I thought. Joie de vivre connects to the actions in life that give us joy simply unto themselves without additional attachment– dancing to your favorite song, eating an exquisite meal, or simply enjoying a walk in the sun can all evoke a joie de vivre. The act has no aim outside of the joy you feel for experiencing life in that moment. When I read fiction that resonates with me, I am experiencing joie de vivre. 

One of my favorite authors is Haruki Murakami. He has written a  number of novels and collections of short stories that I’ve seen classified in the science fiction, fantasy, or mystery genres. While some stories start off in seemingly mundane ways, things usually get weird. The twists, turns, and developments often take jumps that bend the mind to fully understand where the story is going. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that I get it. If you were to ask me my favorite books that he’s written, I would tell you Kafka on the Shore and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. If you asked me what those two books were about, I’d struggle to give you a coherent answer. That said, I do not waiver in telling you that I love those books. When I sit down to read some Murakami, I just settle in to read some enjoyable writing–I enjoy his rhythm; I enjoy his characters; and I enjoy it not needing to even make sense all the time. I simply enjoy the ride’s ride.

Am I a better coach, manager, or partner for reading Murakami? Fittingly, I don’t know. I may not be. I could have used that time learning new business strategies and mental configurations for a winning mindset. I could have learned some factual history that would give me conversation material for my next cocktail party. Instead, I spent that time imagining and interpreting; anticipating and judging; shifting and positioning. I may not have advanced anywhere, but I appreciated the ride. That gives me joy.

Making People Around You Better with Michael Gropman

My guest this week is Michael Gropman, Deputy Superintendent of the Community Service Division of the Brookline Police Department. In addition to his over thirty years of law enforcement experience, Michael also holds his Doctorate in Education and Human Development, was part of the founding team for TEDxBeaconStreet, teaches leadership skills to police and security officers, and founded both men’s and women’s community hockey associations. He is a thoughtful, caring man who is deeply dedicated to community. Available on iTunes and Stitcher. 

Listen here: http://makingkairos.libsyn.com/make-people-around-you-better-with-michael-gropman

Instagram: @makingkairos

@kairosnate

Additional show notes available at makingkairos.com

Discussed in this episode:

Juvenile Justice

The Massachusetts Arrest Screening Tool for Law Enforcement (MASTLE)

TEDxBeaconStreet

Michael’s TEDx Talk

Boston Marathon Bombing

What makes a Good Life?

Sports Psychology

Adam Naylor

https://nuhuskies.com/staff.aspx?staff=270

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/telosspc

Make Your Bed

Be In Your Life, Don’t Travel To It

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hand
sand don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

“Tao Te Ching” Verse 80, Lao Tzu, Translated by Stephen Mitchell

The facts of your life should not be a reality you are trying to escape.

When I left my job in higher education administration, I had twenty two vacation days a year. This was in addition to all the imaginable holidays and a week between Christmas and New Years. When I became a fitness coach, when I was finally salaried again, I had ten vacation days a year. I worked weekends, mornings, and nights. I have moved up in this world to become a head coach and head of a facility. This gives me more control of my time, but I run a business that is open seven days a week. I still have less vacation time compared to my office job days. Yet, where as I woke up each day as an administrator wanting to escape my world, on Mondays now I’m itching to get back into the gym and work with people. I no longer want to escape my life, I revel in my daily practices.

I don’t want to be a person who discourages travel. I certainly want to expand my life experience through new places, cuisines, and cultures. For me to deride the practice of travel would be hypocritical. Likewise, I understand the necessity of some form of vacation. An escape from our daily routines and work habits can help us return with refreshed vigor and enthusiasm. I’m sure that these loose justifications for travel and vacation are uncontroversial.

Perhaps controversially, I do think that too many people look to their frequency of travel or vacation as a sign that their life is going well. If you are able to post pictures on Instagram of your excesses at foreign restaurants, you have a refined and enlightened sense of taste; if you can share the picture of your view from the top of a far off mountain you climbed, your vigor and physical robustness is worldly indeed; the sunset over the edge of an exotic beach displays your keen sense of calm and serenity. Of course, these are only a thin slice of your life experience. A highlight of a particular moment. If your exotic vacation lasts two weeks, how are you spending the remaining fifty weeks of the year? Is it eating foods that you will later regret? Do you opt to take an Uber whenever an inconvenient walk is a possibility? Is your brain so scrambled at the end of the day that you can only binge watch a show on Netflix?

No matter how robust your time spent on vacation and travel is, you are spending the majority of your life at home and going to work. Over the course of a lifetime, you may remember the highlights you posted on instagram, but the majority of days you wake up facing an average day, not a highlight. 

What I would suggest is making that daily average better than it currently is. Having the majority of your life spent in activity you seek to escape is unacceptable. Travel and vacation should enhance your life, but they should not be the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. If that is the case, what is getting you out of bed is the fantasy of living a life you love at some far off point. What drives true life satisfaction is getting out of bed each morning and looking forward to the day to day practices of life. Construct the life you want on a daily basis. If you don’t love your life, change it. Not by seeking escape through vacation, but by changing your daily endeavors to practices you find engaging and meaningful.