How To Live On 24 Hours A Day

How To Live On 24 Hours A Day by Arnold Bennett puts the modern self-improvement circle jerk to shame. In this book, written 106 years ago, Bennett encapsulates the best advice you’ll ever encounter into a mere 24 pages.

No fluff, no personal embellishment, no self-promotion, no page-filling anecdotes. Just simple, straightforward advice for men that has withstood the test of time.

Best of all, the book is free. And you can read it right now in the next hour, but you won’t stop thinking about it for days. Trust me. I read this book on three days ago and it has filled my thoughts ever since.

Not unironically, this is some of the advice he actually espouses. To think deeply on subjects of importance is to be a staple of a man’s life. He advocates giving ninety uninterrupted minutes per night, three nights per week, to the study of meaningful subjects.

Unless you give at least forty-five minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your ninety minutes of a night are chiefly wasted.

My favorite theme in How To Live On 24 Hours A Day is Bennett’s emphasis on balance and moderation. When embarking on a self-improvement journey it is common to try to do too much at once.

Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much.

He ends with this theme, but I will start with it because it is of utmost importance.

Let the pace of the first lap be even absurdly slow, but let it me as regular as possible.

And something that I am guilty of quite often:

And still another danger is the danger of developing a policy of rush, of gradually being more and more obsessed by what one has to do next. In this way, one may come to exist as in a prison, and one’s life may cease to be one’s own. One may take the dog out for a walk at eight o’clock, and meditate on the fact that one must begin to read at a quarter to nine, and the one must not be late.

Bennett talks about how we mustn’t talk too much about what we are doing to improve ourselves. Few people care or understand. There is no upside to sharing.

It is as well not to chatter too much about what one is doing, and not to betray a too-painted sadness at the spectacle of a whole world deliberately wasting so many hours out of every day, and therefore never really living. It will be found, ultimately, that in taking care of one’s self one has quite all one can do.

Bennett speaks of our elusive search for this so-called “happiness” that everyone seems to be after. After all, why are we doing what we are doing? What are we trying to achieve? What does winning look like?

And they have attained it by realising that happiness does not spring from the procuring of physical or mental pleasure, but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles.

Are we living a life in alignment with our core beliefs? Too often when we find ourselves feeling unsettled it is because we are either living for the temporary pleasures, or trying to conform our standards to someone else’s. A core tenet often missing from self-help advice is first understanding what we want to align ourselves with, what sort of life do we want to lead?

And how does one figure out exactly what HE stands for? What should he study? What program should he follow?

And it is not literature, nor is it any other art, nor is it history, nor is it science. It is the study of one’s self. Man, know thyself.

I am entirely convinced that what is more than anything else lacking in the life of the average well-intentioned man of today is the reflective mood.

And what is most the most important skill for a man to achieve? Mastery of his own mind.

Mind control is the first element of a full existence.

Get your mind in hand. And see how the process cures half the evils of life – especially worry, that miserable, avoidable, shameful disease – worry!

If all of this stuff sounds familiar that’s because you’ve probably read it on popular blogs or $0.99 ebooks without nearly the prose or precision as Arnold Bennett lays down in How To Live On 24 Hours A Day.

The book is FREE, takes an hour to read, and will leave you deep in thought for days.

Can I Prevent My Son From Becoming Gay?

One of the popular beliefs in this corner of the net is that a strong, masculine father can prevent just about every poor outcome for his children.

Kid is a brat? Must be a weak, beta father.

Kid is gay? Must’ve lacked a masculine influence in his life.

Kid is an alcoholic? Dad didn’t lay down the rules.

I understand the sentiment to these types of statements, but as a father of three children approaching their pre-teen years I am finding that I can only partially agree with them now.

I have 27 “years” of parenting under my belt if you add up the age of my children. I can say, with authority, that we are fighting forces that go far beyond the loss of masculine fathers.

I’d love to tell you that everything will be fine if you are a “strong, masculine” father, but that would be false. Sure, there are many ills that can be prevented by a father properly filling his role as leader and protector.

However, outside forces are at work that are beyond our understanding, and well beyond our control.

Some of the most masculine fathers I know have gay children. How can this be? I thought masculine fathers prevented that? I wish I could say it’s true.

There may be some correlation between weak fathers and gay sons, but I suspect any causation is genetic or environmental, and a change of psychological frame will do little to stem such an outcome.

The same environmental or cultural forces that have weakened fathers have had another generation of time to further weaken their children.

I believe the role of parents is like the role of sugar in type II diabetes. Those who get diabetes have a genetic predisposition to it, but it is triggered by a lifetime consumption of sugar.

There are many things a parent can do to avoid poor outcomes for their children in many different areas. I believe helping children learn to find their own fulfillment is essential and can ward off diseases like anxiety and depression.

My children will always be genetically prone to those psychological diseases, but as a diabetic can prevent diabetes by avoiding sugar, I can teach my children to nurture themselves without self-loathing.

But I also suspect there are other conditions, just like type I diabetes, that can’t be prevented. Or if they can be prevented, we simply don’t understand the mechanisms to do so, and we know they fall beyond our immediate control at the moment.

I suspect this is where we are at with homosexuality. I’m not talking about degenerate bisexuality or “experimentation”, but chemical homosexuality. I’ve met boys that exhibited deeply feminine traits nearly from birth, it was clear from an early age that they would be gay, any attempt to surmise otherwise would be futile.

This is likely the roughly 1% of our population that has always been homosexual, you know it when you see it.

As for the rest, like the soccer moms “switching teams” and leaving behind their husband and kids in their thirties for another woman? I’d like to think that stems from a loss of masculine leadership.

But perhaps the loss of masculine leadership is also linked to the same factors that are feminizing our boys and masculinizing our women? Maybe it is environmental, I suspect there may be something we find out later on that is causing this softening of men, and I find it hard to believe that it is simply cultural.

So can a father prevent his children from becoming gay? I suspect if they’re the “type I diabetes” type then it is doubtful, but if they are simply bored and lacking fulfillment and looking for it in all the wrong places, perhaps he can sway their life choices.

My hope is that future research gets deep into hormonal changes that are occurring across the Western world right now to understand this shift. We must overcome the taboo of studying gay people to understand “why” they are gay. I suspect it will unlock a great deal of knowledge about human behavior and how it is impacted by environmental factors. We mustn’t be afraid to follow that path.

Divorce: 7 Essential Insights For Men

Divorce: 7 Essential Insights For Men

A reader with the handle Wood Chipper left the following comment on my post about the challenges of being a single father:

“That was an insightful post. As a father in my early 30s currently going through a divorce, there are defininetely a lot of unknowns right now about how things are going to work and what to expect. Was there anything else you found particularly helpful early on when emotions were high?”

The early months of going through a divorce, especially for a blind-sided nice guy, are the most difficult, emotionally, many men will face in their lifetimes. Your whole world is crushed, all of your plans for the future have gone up in smoke, the basis for your entire existence is pulled right from under you.

If I could help divorcing fathers get through this stage even a hair better than I did I will have succeeded in my mission for this blog. I would expect to see much of what I am writing here in my book on divorce that needs to hit top of my priority list ASAP. Consider this a sneak preview.

I gave some thought to Wood Chipper’s comment, and looking back, here are the 7 things I did, or should have done, that would contribute to making the best of being a father going through a divorce.

1. Grind – Go to work every day and give your best to your career

As men, we were meant to work, and work hard. Few things bring greater satisfaction than a hard day of honest effort. This is one of the truly cathartic activities availbe to a father, or any man really, going through divorce.

Your career is your greatest financial asset, do not neglect it at a time when it might be easy to justify doing so. Now, more than ever, your career is the most important pillar of your life.

You need the satisfaction that work brings, along with the economic security provided by the accompanying paycheck. Without this everything becomes much harder for a divorcing father.

Lawyer fees, child support, running a household on one income, etc. This will all require maximum funds from your day job. Grind away.

2. Get a “go-to” friend and tell them EVERYTHING

There are some things that men going through divorce will often keep to themselves. One of the most damaging is the insecurity created when a wife leaves for another man. The mental images of the woman you devoted your life to banging another guy are downright torturous.

During my divorce I called on my best friend. I went to his house one evening, I hadn’t told anyone about what had happened yet, and I spilled everything to him about my situation. Every feeling, thought, and fear was laid right on the table. I knew I could trust him and he wouldn’t judge me.

My friend was absolutely essential to getting through the early months of my divorce. Irreplaceable. A few months into it I hit my lowest point, where I was crying in a courtyard outside of my office. I was completely disoriented, the gravity of it all had finally hit me.

At that point I sent my friend a simple text that said, “Pray for me, buddy, I’m not in a good place today.” His simple reply of “Done” was all I needed to move forward. I needed to know that someone knew what I was going through.

If you can’t think of a friend or family member that you can entrust with darkest details of your divorce, reach out to someone anonymously in the online community. They don’t even need to know your name.

I offer some limited divorce coaching calls through Skype where I simply charge for my time. A couple of hours venting to someone who has been there before can do wonders for your recovery.

3. Don’t date

About two months after my ex moved out of the house I went on a date. It was a total disaster. I met some tatted up chick on PoF and met her at the coffee shop, by the end of our chat I was plotting the course to our wedding. Thankfully, she sensed my neediness and never returned my texts. I took the next year off from dating completely.

I know some guys will advise that you go out and get a few notches to shake off the ego cobwebs and prove your virility. I estimate that very few men will benefit from doing this. Those that would aren’t really struggling with their divorce to begin with.

Most of us fathers who find ourselves in the midst of a divorce are recovering “nice guys” who could easily fall into damaging decisions with new women, even ones that were only meant to be casual and temporary.

My hard and fast rule for divorced guys is to take a full year off of dating, and a full five years off of marriage, minimum. It takes time to overcome and change patterns that caused such poor outcomes the first time around.

Keeping your dating life out of the picture for a while will help you focus on getting other more important areas of your life in order without distraction. There will be plenty of time for dating later on, and trust me, it will be a lot more fun when you’ve shaken the emotional burden of divorce.

4. Cry

About 4 months after my ex moved out I got wind of her dating a new guy. Up until that point, my focus was on simply surviving a move to a new home and keeping my head above water.

Hearing that my ex was now (already) dating someone new was crushing to me. I look back and realize it was silly, especially considering we got divorced because she was having an affair, but for some reason that news hit me hard.

The night I found out about it I stayed up all night crying. I did not sleep a single minute. That was a turning point in my recovery from divorce. Our bodies react chemically to crying, in a good way.

Crying rejuvinates the soul, it’s like a pressure relief valve for our grief. Let it flow.

I’m not getting all sensitive and soft here, but the truth is, it is OK for a man to cry once in a while, necessary even.

5. Go to bed early, rise early

I find it nearly impossible to be depressed watching the sun rise. On the flip side, I find it difficult not to get melancholy when I’m tired and alone at 11pm.

In the first year after my divorce I made a point to get to bed early and rise early. None of my thoughts that occurred after 10pm were productive, and the fatigue only heightened my emotions the next day.

In the peak of summer I found myself going to bed before the sun had even set, it felt great. It was like giving the middle finger to those late night demons that would come to visit if I’d overstayed my welcome in the current day.

Find a reason for a waking early. Mine was taking a walk and drinking a cup of coffee. Simple, but I quite looked forward to that routine, and the fresh air was therapeutic as well.

6. Forgive your ex

I recorded a shaky podcast on this subject recently. Give it a listen.

Forgiveness is the most important thing you can do to clear your emotions. If you harbor any anger your recovery will stall. You must forgive.

Anytime someone hurts us we want to be angry. It’s a nature response, but if it lingers too long ti crushes us.

Remember, your ex is a broken human being that is more deserving of pity than hate. Her own emotional prison is punishment enough to venge for any wrong she’s done to you.

In the words of Elsa, let it go.

7. Take your time

If you have kids then you’ve probably seen the Pixar movie Cars, right? Maybe some of you even saw it as a kid yourself.

You know the scene where Lightning has to repave the road in town, but the first time he goes too fast and it’s a bumpy mess?

The same applies here, there is no rushing this. There is no magic secret that can speed your recovery along, any attempt to do so will result in having to go back and start over, often with more cleanup along the way.

Let this process unfold like any other. When you’re falling in love, and you try to rush it, things come undone. The same applies to recovery, let the pace go naturally.

You’ll want to press and move on faster, that will be the naturaly tendency. The best thing you can do is resist this urge, and approach any feelins of recovery with an abundance of caution.

You will declare yourself healed many times before that statement rings true.

Conclusion

Recovering from divorce is a five year process. However, you can do yourself a lot of favors by taking the right steps in the first few months, this will ease the burden later on. Allow yourself some space to make mistakes while keep the boundaries up on the non-negotiables like your career and your children. Use the hurt as a catalyst to reinvent your life however you see fit, for you’ve been give a blank slate from which to rebuild.

Build The Wall … Around Your Thoughts

My schedule, on a calendar, is linear and structured. I know where I need to be and what I need to be doing at most times of the day.

That’s the easy part.

What is occurring in my head is a whole different story. Morning until night, sometimes even all through the night, is a stream of consciousness unlike any other.

A conversation with myself is occurring and lightning speed, only interrupted briefly by those things on the calendar that require my physical attention, and even then I’m often not fully present.

Presence is lacking in my life, unless you count being present with myself, which I am phenomenal at doing.

As of late, I’ve been using visualization to overcome this challenge.

The same way my schedule is walled off into blocks of time I have started to wall off my mental thoughts as well.

I can’t just “wing it” either. This requires true visualization.

Therefore, when I want to enter into a focused state of concentration, whether that be on a different person or a major project, I picture myself walking through with entrance to a medieval castle.

I picture myself walking slowly across a drawbridge that spans a moat. As I enter into the brick walls of the castle compound the bridge closes behind me, leaving outside all thoughts beyond the current moment, beyond what is happening withing these walls.

I do this as I walk into a restaurant to meet a friend for dinner, or as I start the dishwasher, symbolically starting my evening “kid time” where I devote a few post-dinner hours to fully present interactions with my children.

This also means making a few physical changes to signify the boundary. Most important being the silencing or turning off of my cell phone. The cell phone is like a trojan horse into my castle of thought, a destructive force that I can easily carry right inside with me if I’m not mindful.

While this is a recent revelation for me, it has paid great dividends in just a few weeks. I am more and more present with my children, enriching their incredibly important feelings of attachment to me. Dinner with my folks has taken on a new feeling of calmness and peace, with more time spent listening. Not to mention also the feeling of connectedness it has created in my love life.

It is often said that the best gift one can give to another person is the gift of their full attention, and I have found this to be true. The challenge, as an introvert with a very active thought process, is to channel this focus away from that river of thoughts roaring like rapids in the background, and place it firmly on the rocky shore.

Makeup Days

Have you ever been driving down the expressway on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day and thought to yourself “this just feels different.”

You could have traveled that highway 200+ times that year to commute to work, but on that particular holiday it feels like a different road.

Perhaps it’s the lack of trucks and commercial vehicles, and the abundance of unfamiliar minivans loaded with families.

These may be part of it, but I suspect the real difference is in our minds, the mentality of driving down that road on the way to a traditional family gathering has a certain comfort to it, perhaps.

As a single father I have my children every other holiday. Every other Christmas, every other Thanksgiving, etc.

Tomorrow, the day after Thanksgiving in the USA, I am picking my kids up from their mom’s then we will celebrate with my family and friends.

But it won’t feel the same as if we were celebrating on Thanksgiving Day. The traditions of waking up and watching the parade, then flipping over to football, all while the aroma of turkey and stuffing hangs in the air, simply won’t be there.

Sure, I will experience most of those same things today, but without my kids around. It has a different feel.

Perhaps those that have to work holidays share this same feeling, or anyone that has to celebrate the day on another day.

 

As a person who feels and senses deeply, these makeup holidays are noticeably different from the “real” ones. Not upsetting, or bad, but just different. Like something isn’t quite the way it’s supposed to be.

I love traditions, they are the stitching to the fabric of my life, they hold the different pieces together. They serve as transitions from season to season, from one mode of thinking to another.

Try as I might, I have not been able to recreate that special holiday feeling when celebrating on a different day. Some things just aren’t the same as the original.

To all of my faithful readers out there in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Daily Challenges Of A Single Father

As I begin to approach the five year “anti-versary” of my divorce I can look back with a clear head and see where things have shaken out.

In the early months and years I was often too clouded with emotion to take a realistic view of where I stood as a mid-30s single father with three young children.

What did my life have in store going forward? Looking back now I can say my thoughts were either cataclysmic or overly auspicious, depending on the day, or even the hour of the day, and how many drinks I had consumed.

Now things have settled down. The strong emotional responses to my divorce and aftermath have faded. I can now look at my life from a realistic and pragmatic viewpooint and see that neither by biggest fears, nor my highest hopes, have materialized.

Every married father out there faces challenges on a daily basis, but the troubles I am going to list here are unique to use single fathers who find ourselves with substantial roles in our kids’ lives but without a partner to share those responsibilities with.

Honestly, a lot of this stuff seems trivial, and in the grand scheme of life, it really is. But on a day to day basis these are the five things I’ve learned pose the biggest challenge in my life as a single father.

1. Losing Stuff

I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to material posessions, I don’t like to have many, but the ones I do have are well cared for and always in their appropriate place. I rarely “lose” things, and as anyone who has every attended a sporting event with me will attest, I need to be the one holding the tickets, I simply don’t trust others as much as I do myself.

Now, life as a father throws a wrench into any control freaks plans, for sure. Kids are messy, unorganized, and can clutter a room in surprisingly quick fashion. In my married days we were able to keep up with the daily onslaught of clutter and messes, but as a single father it is quite a bit more challenging.

I find that I am unable to keep up with messes my kids make, and it creates a great deal of mental stress for me. As they get older they get better at cleaing up after themselves, but their version of “clean” is nothing close to my own standards.

Finally, as they trek belongins back and forth between my house and their moms, inevitably things get lost in transit. Some nice clothing and toys, given to my children by relatives, have never made the return journey back from the other side of those Sunday afternoon exchanges.

Letting go of my controlling nature has proven difficult, and overcoming it is likely impossible. Therefore, I keep things as simple as possible and limit, within reason, what the kids take to their mom’s.

2. SeeSaw Routines

Back and forth, back and forth. I can’t imagine what it feels like for my children, but I know it isn’t enjoyable for me.

I love my kids, but I also love my alone time. What I don’t live is the drastic swings between the two.

For five days I’ll have a full house of laughing and crying children, then the next five days it’s quieter than a library full of nuns.

Over four years of this routine and I still haven’t gotten used to it. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night and forget whether my children are home or not. It’s surreal to say the least.

Five days is just enough to full adjust to each routine before it abruptly changes again. On Wednesday morning I drop my kids off to school, then return home from work on Wednesday night to a table full of dirty breakfast dishes, but none of the laughter that usually comes with the mess. It’s a dark, lonely feeling each week, no matter how many times I experience it.

Don’t even get me started on how Christmas feels without my kids around.

3. Extracurriculars

I grew up playing baseball all summer long. It was a part of my childhood with very distinct memories and life lessons learned. From about six to sixteen I played every year.

I had always hoped my children would follow in my enjoyment of sports. There is someting uniquely instructional about sports and the things they can teach you about life.

Now that I split time with my children, and my ex and I live in different towns, my kids haven’t had the opportunity to play too many organized sports.

Now, the lack of commitments means we have more time to do other things, like hike and camp, but it still stings a bit to know they’re missing out on something I so greatly enjoyed.

I hope as they get older they can join school sports teams and experience all that they have to offer.

4. Lack of alone time with each child

Having multiple children means I am rarely alone with each child.

Spending one on one time with a child is a unique bonding experience. When I was married this was far easier than it is today, as most of my time is spent with myself and my three kids alone, together.

Every so often I will employ the help of my folks or another babysitter to take two of the kids off my hands so I can connectin individually with one of them.

I consider this time to be crucial and sacred. My children attach strong memories, and hence attachments, to these times spent alone with me.

It is disappointing, as a single father, that these moments don’t happen more often, as I think they should be part of a weekly or biweekly routine for most families.

I chalk this one up to “do the best I can given the circumstances” category.

5. Being a single father is thankless work

Being a parent is thankless work, no doubt about it. Only once your children grow and have children of their own will they truly appreciate things you did for them. This is a long game and the rewards are decades out in the future.

Being a single father, it feels even more thankless because there is no one else to share the grind with. A married couple with kids can share in the loneliness of a never ending parenting routine, but a single father is left with little recourse for this matter.

My girlfriend, a single parent herself, provides some solace from this often lonely feeling, but it is little more than a consolation prize as the challenges we each face are different and difficult to relate to one another.

Thankfulness provides a reprieve from this cloud of thanklessness. I am sometimes, not enough though, thankful for the opportunity to raise three healthy children. A focus on the gravity of my responsibility satiates the ego enough to press forward despite no tangible rewards awaiting anytime soon.

Conclusion

None of these are earth-shattering problems, of course, but I would imagine they are issues that single fathers across the land find themselves facing. I purposely stayed away from the common problems of custody schedules and legal issues, those have been covered on other blogs ad nauseum. I want to keep a focus here on things closer to home, the day-to-day grind of life. I see each passing day as an opportunity to connect with our children that we should be maximizing.

Any single fathers out there I’d be glad to hear about your challenges in the comments.

Stemming The Flow Of Information

I’m not doing anything drastic, nor am I swearing off the internet or social media. I am, however, severely restricting its use.

This will just be another n=1 experiment to see if it has a positive impact on my life. I have no hypothesis or expectations.

Starting yesterday I decided to limit my use of social media to two 30-minute sessions each day.

That fact that one hour a day is a major restriction on my use tells me something about my previous habits.

I’m not gonna morally signal any type of superiority over my self imposed righteousness. However, the more I observe my own work habits I realize that Cal Newport may have been onto something in Deep Work.

When I break my attention span into a couple of hundred phone checks each day, what am I losing? It’s hard to say.

This is something I have considered many times and tried a few. Like an obese person “thinking” about starting a diet. Something finally snaps and they decide to make things right.

Yesterday, as I sat down to read a book I had been quite looking forward to, I noticed that I would only read a page or two before grabbing my phone and taking a look.

Even more disturbing, however, is I noticed I’d reach for the phone when a hint of stress appeared in my life. A tough question to answer from a family member, a nagging responsibility, etc.

I have been using my phone like an infant uses a pacifier, to soothe myself when things aren’t perfect.

So I’ve decided to break the habit loop. Here’s what I am going to do. It’s a simple experiment, really:

  1. From yesterday until January 1st, 2017
  2. No social media apps on my phone
  3. Limit social media to 2 x 30 minute sessions each day

I’ve noticed these challenges work best when they are specific and I don’t take on more than one at a time. The simpler the better as well.

Spending an entire hour a day on social media still sounds like a lot, that may have to change at some point as well. I only have so many free hours each day, to use a good % of it on twitter may not be a good ROI, I shall see.

I love twitter, I have the greatest friends on there, I never plan to leave. But I hope to get more value from the interaction by creating more value in my daily life that I can share with others. I don’t want the highlight of my day to be my twitter interactions.

I will report back on this experiment in the new year.