Personal stories

Redemption is Only a Word

We met , for the first time I thought, this evening. Only, it wasn’t, as you said. I do not recall our first meeting, nor will I ever. Its a blank in my mind. Like it never happened.

But it did. Of course I believe every word you said. The truth was written in your face and I saw that from the very first moment that our eyes met.

This is not who I am. Or who I wish to be. Certainly, I wish to be respectful of every human being that I cross paths with in this life.

The truth is this: I have not been so. Not with you; nor with many others. To you the above may not mean much. After all, we only shared one meeting, and what do I know, maybe you thought I was not worth remembering even then?

But you did remember. Jacob from Tjili Pop. That is me, the evidence is unquestionable as much as I want it not to be true.

I wonder how many other women I have forgot meeting? How many have I forgot sleeping with? I have shared the most intimate of moments with people I will never recall ever saying hello to.

I am not sure saying sorry does much good. There is no redemption in words alone. It makes me feel better, I guess. Maybe karma treats me more like a friend than a foe now?

I will say this much. When I saw you this second time. You were gorgeous. Beautiful inside out. I would date you in a heart beat. I can’t believe if I wast the one who didn’t want to meet again. I hope I wasn’t.

You will likely never read this. There is no chance it will reach you. I understand the politics of social life as they are. That there is no way for me to get my words through.

But if they do. I will let you know this one thing: This will stay with me for the rest of my life.

You made me write my first creative piece in years. You reinvigorated the fire of my creative spirit. The belief that I am meant to be a servant of the greater good.

This experience serves as a reset for me. I am ready to respect women on a different level than I did before. I am ready to walk every step that I take with the astute self-observance that I have always believed to be my biggest strengh.

Sorry is a sorry word. It will never be enough. I greatly believe my thoughts will be.

Yours truly

Jake

My Cringe-worthy Blogging Past

Just a random photo of some boats I once took when I was living in Peru.

Today it has been exactly one month since I decided to get back into blogging. Naturally, I have been rereading many of the 136 posts I have published over the course of the last 5 or more years that the blog has existed. Boy oh boy, did I find a lot of cringe-worthy content!

I suppose it’s only natural for most people to cringe a bit when they look at things they produced years ago, but it really stirs all sorts of horrific feelings in me. I won’t delete anything – not a single comma – even if I really, really, really want to. In the end, doing so would be counter to what I want to achieve from here on, which is to display an increased level of openness and authenticity as a writer and human being.

So if I can’t sweep those posts under the carpet and pretend they never existed in the first place I figured I might as well address why it is I feel so embarrassed about the majority of the content on this blog. So without further ado, here’s is the 4 types of posts on The Measured Life I cringe the most about.

1. The overly personal “personal  development” posts

Throughout the years I have written A LOT of ” personal development” type content because, well, I was doing a lot of personal development those days. I was utterly hopeless with women, I was near hopeless when it came to my work life, in general I was pretty much as hopeless as one can be.

Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. Things were not going well for me. I believed that my “discoveries” gave me a lot of insights, and certainly they where huge insights to me, but how I thought anyone would take advice on personal development from someone with a very long way to go in terms of his own personal development is beyond my current understanding.

I guess I still like to write personal stories (sigh), so maybe I haven’t learned much at all, but at least I know how to be at least somewhat self-ironic about it these days. Not all people would agree about that last bit, though…

2. The “unsubstaniated science” posts

Well, to start off with giving myself a small pat on the back here, I guess I was miles ahead of Donald Trump when it comes to source criticism, but that doesn’t say much does it? It’s not that anything I have written was ever wrong as such, I did (like I still do) look up scientific articles on sites like google scholar, but somehow those posts always ended up very incoherent and messy anyway. (Probably because of my incoherent and messy mind).

I think that when I realized this I just stopped writing this kind of content altogether. Which made the blog go south in general. And that’s a huge shame. When I look up cultural anthropology (my original field of education), or even behavioral science online theses fields doesn’t seem to get nearly enough attention they deserve. I’m no journalist, but I think that every bit of attention people give important topics like this counts. The world needs ethnography, god damn it!

For example, a topic I have wanted to take up on the blog for years is Facebook and other social media’s (often negative) influence on people’s self esteem. There is a lot of great research done on this trend, but much of it doesn’t get a lot of attention from the media. I  don’t know why that is, actually. Maybe people don’t care to read about it. Maybe it’s bad for business for the social media companies who rule the net.

Either way you should never make statements about something you don’t know enough about. Well, it’s sort of comforting, sort of sad that people much higher in society than me seems to also need to take that class again. Trump, let’s take it together!

3. The “spiritual enlightenment” posts

Boy, have I thought and written a lot about Taoism. It’s not that I’m NOT into Taoism. I still remember when I first read The Tao Te Ching and fell in love with this simple yet very wise ancient Chinese philosophy. But I’m certainly a novice at best when it comes to really understanding it. You have to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours of rigorous study if you want to look at yourself as someone who could teach others about a philosophical tradition such as Taoism. I guess my point is the same of that above: don’t preach about something you clearly haven’t researched well enough.

The Tao Te Ching is less than a hundred pages long, but its verses aren’t very straight forward for someone like myself to understand. It is something you have to give a lot of deep thought if you want to get the subtleties of the text, and I certainly didn’t at the time.

4. The “ins and outs of personality typology” posts

Many of my posts on MBTI were actually quite popular and those are typically the ones still drawing traffic to the blog to this day. Like all of the above they were well meant, and based off of sound theories (if you believe in personality typing anyway) but simply not well composed or anywhere near researched enough.The MBTI has many layers, the cognitive functions are especially hard to understand for a novice.

I have a plan to right this wrong, though, and write the series of posts I originally set out to write. I think understanding the whole frameworks behind the MBTI and the Enneagram can help you greatly in life, and since the main purpose of this blog is to be (even a very minor) positive force in this world I’ll be looking very much forward to getting started with that.

The conclusion

So whats the takeaway of this post? Isn’t it just another cringe-worthy / head stuck up your arse type post?

Well, for one, if anyone ever decides to comment on the quality of my “back-catalogue” I’ll send them here.

Will I stop writing personal stories, though? Or insights into the latest in behavioral science? Or bits on personality typology? Or (if god forbids) even the occasional “spiritual” post?

Those are all topics I still love, so they will naturally be an integral part of the fabric of The Measured Life. Also in the future. But you hereby have my promise that I will think about this post every single time I have a “great” idea for a post about any of the above.

…and then I’ll probably write it anyway.

Life Come Full Circle?

The Author and friends enjoying some watermelon on Taquile Island

Beginnings

That’s me, there on the left. Back in 2009 I was interning with a danish NGO in the Peruvian Andean mountains.  This photo was taken on Taquile Island in lake Titicaca with the kids of our host family as well as with Tara Miller of Paonia Pottery.

At the time this blog was in its heyday, but I never really got to tell the wonderful story of the Taquileans, or that of Tara and her husband Sam who I met on the island. While my frail memory does not serve justice to the many wonderful things that happened during my year in Peru, I luckily still have many of the notes and photos I took.

Back then I was a practicing ethnographer, that is I was studying to become one and my time in Peru was part of my planning to do my master thesis, which eventually became a defense of tourism’s impact on the island community of Taquile. There are many sides to this story, and of course, like most stories, this is not a black and white one. Its something I will get back to over and again on this blog.

I finally graduated from Aarhus University in the summer of 2011, knowing much about how to study the world, but very little on how to be an active participant in it. I  was frightened about having to enter the job market, to say the least. My plan was always to get a PhD and probably end up as a professor somewhere, but I now know that I wanted to pursue this road only because it would be the easiest one to take for me, seeing that it would allow me to stay in my bubble.

Around the time of my graduation, however a lot of things happened in my life, that would eventually lead me down another road. All though, as I will get to later, a road that I think is about to come full circle, at least in part.

So lets turn the time back to the summer of 2011. I had just graduated, but the financial crisis of 2008 was still making it hard for recent graduates, especially those in the humanities, to find proper employment. Because of that and because of other things, among them my then girlfriend breaking up with me (doesn’t love always get the fault for these things though?) I decided to move back to my home town of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

Back in Copenhagen, I had been lucky to find an apartment I could sublet for two years, but I needed someone to share the expenses with. This was still in the fairly early days of Facebook (well, I think I first got on in 2007), but I did eventually put a post up about needing a roommate there. And doing just  that turned out to be one of the best things I had ever done, and it has since been a testament to me how much positive power social media can have on your life!

Among others, I got a reply from Kristina, a girl who I incidentally (hmmm…I think not!) had interned with in Peru.

On the plow

So in December of 2011 we moved in together in this tiny 50 square meter (well, tiny for a guy and a girl who aren’t in a  relationship) apartment in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. In many ways Kristina has since then been my guardian angel and I hope that I’ll some day be able to repay her for everything that she has done for me.

I can thank Kristina forthe fact that I work in project management today (she got me the interview). I can also thank her for understanding women better (I used to have no clue whatsoever!) although alll you fine women out  there are still quite an enigma to me! That’s what makes it interesting in suppose.

I couldn’t begin to count the hours she must have been listening to me yapping on about my failed attempts at love without asking of much in return. And I don’t know how much I ever really gave her in return, to be honest.

A huge part of my problems in life has indeed started with how self-centered of a person I have been. I guess even my ethnographic endeavours have been, for a large part, due to this self-centeredness. Even as I write this, it gets to me that what do you really care. There is no context for you to put this information in.

This is somehow where we really get back to square one of this story. I had a pretty difficult start in the job market, and so was very thankful to even have a job, and this month I can celebrate three years anniversary at a great job with great colleagues, one of them being aforementioned Kristina.

But over those years out of university I also slowly settled into an inertia of sorts. Like I think many of us do. A full time job takes a lot of your mental energy and the more responsibility you have at your job the harder it can become to pursue hobbies like writing this blog in your free time, when all you have energy to do after an 8 hour workday is to be a couch potato and watch reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series.

That’s what I told myself anyway!

In fact, I no longer believe in this whole thing about work-life balance. Your work doesn’t end when you clock out and your life does’t magically begin at that same time.

I now aim for my work to inspire what I do in my free time and what I do in my free time to inspire what I do for work. Ultimately, I think you have a great thing going when you both look forward to getting back to work when you are off, and look forward to getting home to your family or whatever it is at the end of the work day. The feeling has to go both ways. What I think most people do is solely looking forward to getting off of work while not thinking about how they can make their work meaningful.

I will not deceive anyone into believing that the job I have is my dream job. Its not. I am lucky to have a boss, though who understands this. He even said at one point that he totally understood if I was to pursue something else.

At the time I didn’t get the true significance of that, but now I see that I am one hell of a lucky guy to have a boss who sees things in  such a way. When a colleague of mine parted ways with our department it was very amicable, and I am happy to know that when the day comes when I too will do so, it will be in the same manner.

Coming full circle

My boss’ attitude is the kind I think you should be looking for in an employer. Its also the attitude I think you should be implementing in your job as the CEO of your own life. That is, you should pursue more of what thrills you in life, and spend less time on things that don’t.

I truly understood this when I recently began taking up photography as a serious hobby. I love the process of selecting the right equipment, composing a good photo, and post-processing for a stunning, authentic final result.

I love the fact that the images I have taken so far has brought genuine smiles on many peoples faces. It has facilitated conversations, both online and offline, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Generally, it is making me a happier, more confident person day by day.

What I don’t like, for example, is the way people behave on apps like Instagram, in general how social media today encourage you to ‘market’ yourself as I describe in length in my previous post. I think this way of socializing does not bring many good things with it, and its something I will talk more about on this blog in the future. Do tings because you simply HAVE to, not because it is something  society tells you to do.

Living authentically, and to be truly happy, in today’s world is becoming increasingly difficult even though it should be the opposite, and its therefore something that needs to be debated more from an ethnographic viewpoint than I see it being done. The above was the original intention with this blog and it is where I see it going forward from here on.

It is a funny thing how you on one hand think that you have come a long way over the years, yet when you sit down and think about it, you seem to be right back where you started.

Yours truly,

Jacob

 

Reflections on my Writer’s Block

Every day I wake up with the feeling that I want to write something. And every day I don’t even try to sit down at the computer and open a word document to do so. It’s a weird thing, isn’t it, wanting to do something, but not wanting it enough to actually do it?

Don’t get me wrong, I write a bunch at work, but that’s not the same at all. I guess you could call the writing I do at work “creative writing”, but it doesn’t satisfy me on the same level as it did when I used to write stuff for the blog on a more full-time scale.

I have been at my job for about two years now and overall I have worked in project management for four years. So I know I must have built up some skills and confidence in what I do over those years even if I don’t think much about that on a daily basis.

I think that’s what I lack with the blog: confidence in my skills as a creative writer. I was never good at grammar; not in my native language (which is danish) and especially not in english. I feel even more naked when I write in english than when I do so in danish. I never really overcame this fear even tough I have been doing this for more than half of my life.

Somewhere deep down I hold a belief that I have talent, if not in putting together coherent sentencesses, then in  conveying a personal and meaningful message to the reader. I think that was what kept me going for the two years that The Measured Life was an active site.

What also kept me going was the wonderful and mostly positive reactions I got from people who had stumpled upon my writings one way or another. I was scared shitless every time I received a comment, mind you! But I also though of it as a very powerful way to connect with like-minded people. I am forever in awe of the people who decided to spend their time with me here on The Measured Life! I can’t thank them enough for being there with me along the way.

I suppose I am now looking to recreate some of that magic that came in to my life back then by getting back into the writing game…

For now I am not gonna spend a lot of time editing or in deep reflection over the output I produce (or at least that is what I tell myself). I am just going to be doing spur of the moment writing and I am going to be frantically clicking publish whenever I don’t feel like working more on a post.

I other news, I hope you guys (if there is still anyone out there) had a lovely Christmas with all of your families and a fantastic new years with whomever you happened to celebrate that with! I had a very eventful holiday break myself (too eventful even) but that is for another post.

Unfiltered

unfilteredAs somewhat of a professional procrastinator, one of the reasons I don’t get enough writing done is that I am putting too many constraints on myself. It has to be done either some specific way or I won’t do it at all. Let me take a detour to get to the main point.

Yesterday evening I discovered Unfiltered, the blog of one Brian Gardner, through this post by Joshua Becker over at the Becoming Minimalist blog. This discovery inspired me.

For some of us, everything we do online is meant to present ourselves at our best, often a best that is far away from the reality of everyday life.

On one hand I want to do something great with this blog. Of course, what I really mean with that is that I want a lot of readers!

So I keep thinking about what little changes I can make to achieve that goal, and I am never satisfied, no matter what I do.

On the other hand, I also know that I enjoy the process of writing simply for the sake of doing so. Writing is a therapeutic enterprise. One that’ll help you become the best possible version of you.

It’ll help you make both major and minor decisions in life.

To some extend blogging, and being part of the blogging community, has made me a better person. Through blogging, I have become aware of some of my biggest character flaws.

Incidentally, many of these flaws are the same as Joshua Becker mentions in his post on authenticity. They are:

  • Jealousy
  • Desire for approval
  • Lack of self-discipline
  • Selfishness
  • Protecting my image

I struggle the most with desire for approval and protecting my image, two sides of the same coin.

Now, all I really want is to live a simple life of meaningful work, hobbies that continue to expand my horizons, great friendships, and a meaningful relationship with a loving partner. That is all.

I am certainly on the way towards achieving all of that, but if I continue to put so many constraints on myself, I will never truly get there.

  • The perfect partner doesn’t exist
  • The perfect job doesn’t exit
  • The perfect friend doesn’t exist

We all have flaws. I, for example, will never write a “perfect” blog post, and I certainly won’t achieve any of my other goals if I keep having so high standards.

I think that being honest with ourselves like this, is the only way towards real happiness in life.

The constraints, I won’t just get rid of them by writing one inspiring blog post. But hopefully, by being honest and sincere, online and elsewhere, I will some day.

Anyway, I really weren’t going to write this long of a post. I just wanted to share with you, once again, a link to the most inspirational blog I have found in a long while:

Unfiltered by Brian Gardner

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What You Give is What You Get

I have been struggling with this blog for a while now. I had a vision for what I wanted it to be – a science blog – that I could never live up to. I wanted to be taken seriously, so I decided that I was writing articles, not posts,  and I came up with a bunch of fancy categories that I would never use. All I did was writing badly structured, overly self-indulgent posts about how amazing a person I thought I was. Lame, I know.

Of course, once in a blue moon I would come up with what I think of as an original and interesting post, like the one about Benjamin Franklin, or the one about eating honey before bedtime. Those posts were somewhat useful to anyone reading, and I am convinced that I gained new readers, excited to see what else I would come up with, when I published those kinds of posts. But the good posts would be few and far between, and every mediocre post I did lost me another hard-gained reader.

I am lucky to have lots of people who check in every now and then, none of whom owe me anything. To have anyone following at all in a sea of amazing blogs is a wonder in itself, and to sit down and think about that is a wonderfully humbling experience. I don’t know about you, but I really need to sit down and think about that more often, as a motivation to keep on blogging, on top of everything else I do.

I try to focus a lot of my time and effort on living mindfully because my default starting point is the exact opposite of that. I keep reverting back to thinking that the world owes me success whenever I stray too far away from a mindset of humility. I also have this built-in mentality of thinking that I am better than other people. So I try to put a lot of effort into being a humble person – because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to stand my own company for longer periods of time.

I could launch into a discussion here on whether some people really are morally above others, but I won’t, because I am not at all far enough in my spiritual journey to have gained any substantial insight into such matters. In the past I would. But now I know better. I hope.

I will say, though, without much doubt, that some people seem to be a lot more self-aware than others. I don’t know if I would count myself among the particularly self-aware people just yet, but I know that nothing good comes from focusing on what other people think or do.

Only you can shape your future, and that future is shaped by every single thing you do today, whether you are on autopilot or actively making tough decisions about how to spend your time.

Inaction, however, is a lot more harmful than any action. Whenever I let weeks pass by without publishing anything here, I am removing myself a little bit from my dream of being able to live off of my own writing. Whenever I publish a badly written post, one that I didn’t put enough effort and time into, I am doing the same. This might be one of those badly written posts, I have to accept that. But worrying about quality is a luxury that you can only afford once you have proven that you respect yourself enough, that you trust yourself enough to be willing to do whatever it takes. I haven’t, still.

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs.

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Long Time no See

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”  Sarah Ban Breathnach

Hello and good morning to everyone. It has been a while since I showed my face here at The Measured Life. Since the beginning of the new year I’ve been worrying about becoming pretentious and arrogant, and that has made me very wary of how I engage with social media. I will rather be silent than say something brass that offends someone.

At the heart of it, The Measured Life is a spiritual (though non-religious) blog, and I am a spiritual (though non-religious) guy. At times, in public, I try to downplay this side of myself, simply because I was getting into my head that being emotional isn’t masculine, but I am getting increasingly tired of being such a two-faced person. Putting up a facade is not very attractive, and I see this more and more around me as I engage deeper and deeper in the world of meditation.

It is important for me to be a likable person whom people who know me think of as someone who impacted their life in a positive manner. I want to add, not subtract value to/from my surroundings. There are, however, these two strategies I see many people engaging in, in order to be liked:

  • Doing what everyone else wants to do
  • Showing off

I used to do the first thing a lot because I am both very opinionated and hate conflict to an unhealthy degree. Over the years, of course, I experienced how people got increasingly tired of me not being able to share my true opinions with them. If you are a people pleaser, people will like being around you, but not because they respect you (they don’t) but because you’ll let them have things their way. Everyone wants to have things their way. It is built-in programing.

Anyway, I also know people who are the direct opposite of the above. They want EVERYTHING their way. To be a truly healthy and happy person one has to understand that we are all equal. Even if your opinion is in fact more informed than the person you are arguing with, they still deserve to be treated with respect.

I have met people who have become so arrogant because of certain things they have achieved that they no longer see the world as it is. They are walking around in a world where they are better than everyone else. I can assure you that these people are not truly happy.

This last bit has to do with my second point from above, that most of us are guilty of showing off, some more than others of course. I have been using the dating app Tinder lately, and it is very popular there to have photos of yourself skydiving, scuba diving, climbing a mountain, or with children in an African village. All of these things are of course attractive, but not when they are displayed on Tinder this way. Because, if you have to show off that you are an exciting and wild person to be around like that before ever having met the receiver, then you are not sharing who you are, you are bragging about who you want to be. And that is a very bad start for any future interactions or relationship.

In my opinion, many of us, living in the modern world, don’t understand how important it is to be a) honest, and b) humble in order to be happy with ourselves. It worries me that everyone (including myself) are so busy with being perceived as being perfect that we forget actually caring about whether or not the things that we do actually hold any value to ourselves.

Am I just being a grumpy old man? Or is there some truth to the things I am saying above? Please let me know your opinion. Thanks!

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You Can’t be Everyone’s Friend

I didn’t use to have a very busy social schedule. Now I do. The transition is causing me plenty of problems, especially in relation to how to figure out which plans to stick with and which to abandon.

Yesterday I had a meeting over coffee at 3 PM and dinner plans with someone else at around 5-6 PM. Over coffee I was enjoying myself so much that I told him that we could maybe meet up again later that evening, at around midnight.

But the thing is this: I found myself looking at my watch all the time, thinking about how I had to leave for my dinner plans soon. I wasn’t being fully present in what I was actually doing at the time. Then at dinner I was thinking about whether or not I would have time to meet up with the other guy again later, again not being fully present in what I was actually doing. Maybe you can relate to this….

Going in for coffee I should have told him that I would have to get going again by 5 PM. Not really for his sake alone, but because it would have saved me from having to worry whether my plans would conflict or not. I would then be able to be more present at my coffee meeting, benefiting both of us.

I should also not have brought up the possibility of meeting up again later, because that made it difficult for me to be fully present for the rest of the evening, effectively making it a somewhat worse experience for both me and the people I was with.

So even after having spent plenty of time meditating and reading Eckhart Tolle, it’s very difficult for me to make a decision or a game plan and then stick with it to the end. This post is specifically about when it comes to meeting up with people, but the point goes for everything: make deliberate choices and stick with them.

Often we fail in our endeavors in life because we want to do everything – at the same time. You can’t. Its an impossibility.

In this post I am not offering any solution to that. I haven’t got one, as you can see. But I know one thing, and that is that you have to make tough choices in order to get anywhere worth going.

You have to choose between people; who to be friends with, who to date, etc. There aren’t room for everyone in your life. Choose a few and give them all that you got. Of course, I am not advocating not to go out and meet new people as often as you want. I still do. And I want to continue to do so.

But as I am out there, socializing, networking, etc., I now also know that I can’t be best friends with everyone. Most people I meet I will only meet that one time. A lot of people will only be acquaintances, and that is okay. And a select few…those are the people you’ve really got to stick up for and be there for.

I truly believe that life is about, among other things, making deep and spiritual connections with other people. Networking is fine, even necessary, but make sure that you don’t loose the real, true and one hundred percent honest and straightforward connections you have over superficial social status hunting. Because doing so will bite your ass in the end. I promise.

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An intermission

Once again it has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. I have more inspiration in my life going on at the moment to write than ever, yet somehow that doesn’t translate into a will or a lust or a desire to do so. I guess I am just quite confused as to what direction to take…

At the moment I am focusing a lot on being congruent in my thoughts, words and actions. That goes for blogging too. I want what I write here to be useful yet personal at the same time. In short, I want to be an authentic writer, everyone does – but actually being truthful sans the boastful part is not easy.

I want to be more concise. To get my point across in a couple of paragraphs instead of through twenty, yet I don’t want to compromise on quality, which I think I’ve been doing lately.

So what is a blogger who has lost the interest in blogging to do? Take a break? Just write anyway and be content with the meager quality of his output?

I don’t know. You tell me.