Everything Matters

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I ended my last article with the question “What if none of it matters?

I originally intended on ending it with “What if everything matters?” but I had a feeling I’d get more interesting responses if I ended it the way I did.

The truth is, as Life Lesson #38 says: nothing is trivial.

In other words, everything matters.

What you ate for breakfast matters. How much you exercise matters. The fact that you’re reading this right now matters. “Oh just one more [insert indulgence] can’t hurt” matters.

When I was younger I didn’t think very much mattered. Mostly I just didn’t care. I didn’t care whether someone died or whether someone won the lottery or whether someone was sick or how I felt or what I ate or what I did. I pretended I cared. I tried to act like I cared. But mostly all you’d get from me was flesh, no feeling.

… there is an idea of Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. – Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

It’s hard to pin down the turning point (my answer always changes) of when I began to genuinely care so I won’t make an attempt right now, but some of it stems from finally realizing what’s important.

Imperfection and Importance

We’re imperfect creatures so just because everything matters that doesn’t mean that everything we do is important.

There is a lot I do that’s seemingly not important at all. Is figuring out how to play Paparazzi by Lady Gaga on the guitar important in any way whatsoever? Not really. It doesn’t stretch my guitar playing abilities (it’s basically 5 total chords) but I think it’s funny, it’s silly, and it makes me smile. And you already know there is a lot of power in a smile. I can live with this. More than that, I love this. But if I spent all my waking hours learning how to play silly pop songs that would be a problem.

The 4 Stages of Importance

Importance can be broken down fairly simply into four stages. It’s not always black and white. There are definitely some gray areas, but this is a generally good break down.

Unimportant but beneficial

I would categorize silly pop song learning as unimportant but beneficial because having fun is essential to life.

Unimportant and not beneficial

This would be something like watching TV. But more than just watching TV, it’s being obsessed with a TV show. Recently someone told me they couldn’t wait to sit down and watch all of Dexter Season 4. “Rita died! I don’t know who killed her.”

“Wait a second, let me look it up and tell you and save you some time.” I joked.

“Nooooo!” and said person actually began crying.

I wouldn’t actually spoil someone’s life like this. I understand people will grasp at whatever they can when life sucks. But this situation was very sick, and very sad.

Important but not beneficial

This is a tough one. You could say paying taxes, for example, is important but not beneficial. You could say saving for retirement is important, but not beneficial. You could say having insurance is important, but not beneficial. A lot of this depends on who you ask.

Important and beneficial

Just like the other stages of importance important and beneficial is subjective, but I think it’s easier to determine than the other stages. I would say writing this blog is important and beneficial. I’m sure you could also make an argument that it’s neither. You’d be right. And so would I.

Important and beneficial means important and beneficial to you. This blog is important to me because I love writing and it’s fun connecting with people all around the world. It’s beneficial because I learn a lot from you and I hope you learn a little bit from me as well. See how that works? :)

The goal is to do more important and beneficial stuff.

Obviously everything you do won’t fall into this category. That’s OK. But you have a lot of choice in this matter.

For example, you could choose to watch Season 4 of Dexter or learn how to create a web series.

Both are media-related.

Both make an impact in some way.

But watching a TV show will make a mostly negative impact while learning how to create a web series will make a positive impact.

There is no tangible benefit to watching a TV show besides “vegging out.” It’s difficult to even consider this a tangible benefit. Vegging out is much different than, and not to be confused with, relaxation. Watching TV is not relaxing. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to relax? (Don’t worry, happens to everybody.)

Learning how to create a web series has unlimited potential. The fact is you might not do anything with that potential, and in that case, it matters just as much as watching a TV show. But the potential is there. The choice of what you’ll do with that potential is, as always, yours.

But What Truly Matters If Everything Matters?

Well, everything! Everything truly matters. Everything you’ve done, seen, touched, and experienced has shaped who you are. Everything you’re currently experiencing is shaping who you will be.

“I don’t understand, how can everything matter? You just went on yet another diatribe about how TV is a waste of time, how does TV matter?”

It matters because it shapes you. Something doesn’t have to be important for it to shape you.

When I say TV is a waste of time it doesn’t come from a place of judgement. If you need to watch 5 hours of TV every day, that’s cool. Although I would wonder why you’re reading this site. And if watching 5 hours of TV every day is not important to you, but you’re doing it anyway, why are you being a wuss? :)

Or maybe you want to smoke weed, drop acid, and eat cheetos. I’m not saying you should, I’m just saying it matters, because everything matters. History has proven there are lots of incredibly talented and smart people who have dabbled in mind-altering substances. The late Richard Feynman anybody? (BTW, if you’ve never read Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman it’s a must read.)

Tangent: The difference between a pothead and Mr Feynman is vast. But I don’t have to point that out, do I? :)

The Big Question

Nope, it’s not “what is the meaning of life?” That’s too easy. ;)

The big question is:

If everything matters, how often are you going to choose to do what’s important and beneficial?

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Note: this article has resulted in more hate mail than I’ve ever received. I don’t need to know why you unsubscribed. We’re just not right people. It’s all good. I also don’t need to know why you love TV. It’s a dead horse and not even the real point of this article. Please read *all* the comments before making a new comment about TV. Thanks my loves!

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{ 68 comments }

Kenny Eller

The big answer: I try more and more every day to get closer to…all of the time!

Nice post! Way to get me thinking early:-)

Karol

Thanks Kenny :)

Mark

Great post. It reminded me of a quote from the movie The Crow:
“Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of trivial. Believe me. Nothing is trivial.”
- Eric Draven

Karol

That is exactly where Life Lesson #38 comes from. :)

Laurie

Ooh, I remember that line. Gives me goosebumps :)

Roman

Nice article. But what I don’t understand is: how is having fun learning a simple pop song on the guitar (that doesn’t improve your playing) superior to having fun watching a TV show?

Karol

It doesn’t necessarily stretch the guitar playing abilities, but it does 3 other things besides what I mentioned:

1) trains my ear (a little bit)
2) keeps me from the barrage of TV advertising
3) it makes people really happy when I play the songs in person … spreads love, joy

Roman

Dexter

- Brings me joy because it’s a very well made series. It’s dramatic and has amazing actors. TV shows are the modern equivalent of the plays of the 17th (and following centuries). If something moves me in whichever way I’m not just “vegging out”. Do you agree?

- Provides me with a good conversation topic. Maybe I’ll connect with a new good friend or a hot girl ;)

- Is AD-free because I’m watching online.

Nothing against the guitar, I absolutely love playing it too. I just think you’re demonizing the whole medium TV which is unjustified. But hey, it’s not your thing, I like it, no harm done ;)

Jason

Everything we do is essential to who we are and who we will become. The 4 stages is something I believe Tony Robbins talks about, is that where this came from? It stuck with me and I think it’s true.

I do however disagree with TV being something unimportant and not beneficial…have you SEEN Dexter? ;)

Kidding aside, I think it all depends on what your goals are. TV can spark ideas and creativity. It’s also one of the times I get to spend with my girlfriend, joking and chatting about what we’re watching.

Laurie

I don’t watch TV, but I love movies. If you choose carefully, a movie can catapult you into new realms of being and help you find keys to changing your life for the better. I know that “Titanic” became rather cliche, but when it was in the theaters it blew my mind and changed the trajectory of my life, that whole thing of “making it count.” It made me think hard about what mattered to me. It also introduced me to the band Gaelic Storm, but that’s another story…;)
Laurie

Jason

See, my point is proven. ;)

Self-reflection AND new music, can’t get much better than that.

Karol

Thanks Laurie. The issue is not “never watching a TV show” or “never watching a movie.” It’s letting the TV control our lives, which many people do, but refuse to admit. At the same time, the same people complain about not being fulfilled or not achieving great things.

I do watch TV every once in a while when I want to rot my brain a little bit. And I understand the important social dynamics of getting together with friends and watching a show or a game. That’s much different than obsession with fake characters and fake lives, while not living the lives we want to live.

Karol

I saw Dexter at someone’s house a few years ago. It was good. Nothing to cry over. Nothing to waste my life watching every episode of. The problem isn’t just this one TV show. It’s that if you’ve based your life around TV you’ll never accomplish anything worth a damn. Most people don’t stop with just one TV show for one hour every week. But most people *do* complain about their jobs, friends, relationships, etc, etc, etc. Killing TV is the answer to achieving great things.

My question is: why not spend time with your girlfriend doing something fulfilling? I always wonder why TV is the default for couples activities. This TV as a couples activity thing is new to *our* generation. And our generation doesn’t look very good as a whole. :)

Jason

I’m not sure that TV is the problem, Karol. And I definatelety don’t agree that killing it is the answer to achieving great things.

If you base your life around ANYTHING in a compulsive fashion it’s dangerous. For some reason TV is on your shit list and I’m not sure where that’s coming from, perhaps you’ve had some very negative experiences.

In fact, I do many things with my girlfriend that are fullfilling and insinuating that something I enjoy is unfullfilling is a bit rude.

TV isn’t a default, it’s a facet. And storytelling isn’t something new, which is essentially what a TV show is. Sitting down a listening to someone (or group of people) tell a story. It sparks conversation, insight, and creativity. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Anilia

Hey Jason, I think you’re missing Karol’s point. TV is on my sh*t list too for the same reasons Karol mentions. Also, people use it to escape their problems, and as an excuse for critical thinking (they just believe what they see on tv). Its great to let your mind rest for a bit instead of always working and thinking, but when you watch tv your mind really isn’t at rest. Its absorbing those clever marketing messages and storing what it observes. So its not really a period of inactivity and rest.

You’re not learning anything new when you watch tv. My biggest reason that I’m opposed to tv though is that people are making millions of dollars from my rapt attention. So its a whole lot more than just storytelling. If we were in it just for the storytelling, we’d read books or listen to audiobooks – you’re much more capable of visualizing a story than how its presented on tv.

All of the above may or may not apply to you, so don’t take what I say personally. Its the routine of tv that I dislike… how its become such a part of our culture to accept the images that others give us and let them profit off of us. Most people who like tv watch 2-3 hours a NIGHT… what else could be accomplished in 10-15 hours a week? What did people do before tv and radio were around??

Karol

Thank you Anilia. I’m burnt out on this TV talk already so I won’t add to it, but I appreciate your smart comments. :)

Jason

Anilia, if you read my comments you’d see that I, in fact, am not missing the point. Just because people use something negatively does not not make the thing itself negative. I understand that a lot of people use TV as an escape from real life problems but that doesn’t make TV bad.

And I think your statement, “You’re not learning anything new when you watch tv,” is woefully ignorant. I can’t argue that many people make a ton of money by providing entertainment and if that is a problem for you, so be it. There are a whole lot of services people provide that are profitble and just becasue some folks behind the scenes go about it greedy, uncouth way does not make the whole medium defunct.

I don’t take anything you say personal, after all they’re our individual opinions and we don’t know each other.

I simply don’t agree with the fervor in which Karol is dissing TV, that’s all. Nothing personal. Until he implied that I’m wasting my time on garbage and won’t in some way “change the world.” That’s uncalled for and childish to mention it to someone else in the same forum and then say to you that he’s “burnt out” and so won’t reply to anyone else. That’s rude and shows a complete disregard for other peoples opinions.

Greg

Nice, this post made concrete what I felt was missing from many time management systems and planners: focus on only one thing, like importance. Distinguishing what matters (i.e., everything) from how we view importance and benefit provides a richer framework for relating the two, as you demonstrate in your response to Roman above. Thanks, Karol!

Karol

Thank you Greg. :)

claudia

Hey Karol, great post…!
..they say that everything one does and says and even thinks remains in the universe somehow…the whole akashic record thing…that means that yes, absolutely everything matters, because everything is somehow there forever…I guess to answer the question you posed; we learn to make the positive choices when we realize how important our choices actually ARE, how much the ‘little things’ matter, and how short our time here on earth is…
now….what IS the meaning of life, pray tell????? wink-wink!

Karol

I’m not familiar with akashic record. I will have to look more into that. :)

The meaning of life is. ;)

Laurie

Lady GaGa? Really? That made me grin, alright…myself, I have a long-standing fondness for ABBA. ;)

To answer your question, *as often as I possibly can*. My whole thing right now is learning how to not be in a hurry with all the astonishing things I’m learning about life, goals, minimalism, and what I’m capable of. I feel like someone’s putting rocket fuel in my coffee every morning, and trying to contain that is really challenging. But in truth, I want to savor it, absorb it, let it sink in deep so I can STAY this way. So many things matter to me. So many keys, so many doors to unlock. It’s pure joyousness :)
Laurie

Karol

I like to have a variety of pop songs in my “oh here’s a guitar, let’s have a sing along” repertoire. Still no ABBA though. :)

Thanks for all of your support Laurie. You rock. And keep taking it slow. It’s not a race. :)

paurullan

ABBA rulez and «Dancing queen» rocks hard. Begin with that one ;)

BTW, you already know this was a great post, don’t you? ;)

Karol

Thanks Pau! :)

Alex

“I understand people will grasp at whatever they can when life sucks.”

“There is no tangible benefit to watching a TV show besides “vegging out.””

“If you need to watch 5 hours of TV every day, that’s cool. Although I would wonder why you’re reading this site.”

Some people enjoy television, Karol. That doesn’t mean their life sucks.

I’ve been debating whether or not to keep reading this blog. I guess I have my answer.

Karol

No worries Alex, we’re obviously just not right people. I appreciate you sticking around as long as you did. :)

All the best!
Karol

Joe Reinhart

Karol,

Great post, and kudos on bringing Richard Feynman into the conversation! Big fan of him, although not particularly of that book.

I like how you implied that whether or not something is important and/or beneficial is not only dependent upon the person judging it, but that the value may also change over time depending on life circumstances. I think it’s also important to note that while we can appreciate that everything is important (due to the butterfly effect, for example) I think it’s also important to realize that we probably don’t understand how important everything may or may not be. The world (and even our own little lives) are much to complicated to pretend to understand, which is part of what makes it so great!

Cheers,
Joe

Karol

Joe, I wish I could come up with a response to your thoughts that is worthy. But I can’t. Thank you for kicking ass.

Rich McCarthy

Karol, it looks like you are getting some TV defenders. I was a real TV junkie. I worked all day at a job I no longer loved and came home with no desire to do anything but veg out in front of the TV. Then my wife stumbled upon a minimalist website, with led us to your website and others on the subject of living a simpler, independent lifestyle. Since then, I have cut back on my TV viewing and we dropped from having 100s of channels to basic cable. I haven’t tossed the TV out of the house yet and still find myself clicking the set on as a substitute for working. Why do we watch TV when it isn’t important to us?

Karol

Thanks for the support Rich. For whatever reason people will defend something like television even though its sole purpose is to churn out cogs in the machine. That’s cool though. Those of us who don’t waste our time on garbage will change the world. Those who do waste their time on garbage will live in the world we create. Choice = beauty. I’ve made my choice. ;)

Elle Dougherty

I watch a few television programs AND read your blog…oops! :)

Blog are really boring when all the ideas are the same as mine. I’m not looking for justification of what I do. I’m looking for new perspectives. Your blog is important & beneficial to me, thank you!

Karol

Hey Elle! It’s not simply watching TV that is the problem. It’s obsession with needing to watch TV. Using it to fill a void.

Elle

So true! Another blogger recently said, “Don’t spend all your time watching/reading stories. Don’t forget to go make your own.” Lay off the TV if it’s keeping you from being ridiculously extraordinary :)

Jeanie

I’m really surprised you didn’t put “What do YOU care what other people think” as your de facto Feynman book ;) I really liked that one-and think you should read it if you haven’t!

Terry Pratchett is my other “punny” genius author. Are you familiar with any of his works?

Karol

I haven’t read that Feynman book, but I’ll put it in the queue.

Never heard of Terry Pratchett. Will check him out as well.

Thanks Jeanie!

Laurie

Karol, you should check out “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon…it’s genius, and you’ll laugh your head off!

Kellie Kowalski

I have to second this motion. “Good Omens” is just awesome.

Christopher Sharpe

Really great post, Karol. And a nice followup to last weeks, which I thought was really thought-provoking… but I also felt like you were leaving us hanging for something to come… which obviously turned out to be the case.

The TV discussion is really interesting. There are certain things that definitely strike a sensitive nerve and TV is definitely one of them. Eating junk food is another one.

I was a TV junkie for many years. Since grade school when I was a latchkey kid and TV was my only companion for several hours after school every day. I junked my TV a few years ago, and haven’t regretted it once. I am – however – very sensitive to the addictive power of television. Now that I go weeks at a time without even seeing a TV, I’m amazed at how I slip into a zombie-state when I am in a waiting room or someone’s house where a TV is playing. This may sound like an exaggeration but it is absolutely the truth. I’ve even zoned out of conversations, staring at crap on the TV that I’m not even interested in. I am glad to have it out of my life for the most part.

And bear in mind this is coming from someone who makes movies and internet “TV” shows.

Anilia

“I slip into a zombie-state when I am in a waiting room or someone’s house where a TV is playing. This may sound like an exaggeration but it is absolutely the truth. I’ve even zoned out of conversations, staring at crap on the TV that I’m not even interested in.”

OMG Christopher, I thought this was just me! I’ve never been a tv watcher and may watch a few hours a year. If I’m at a friend’s house, I literally lose my train of thought when they turn on the tv. Then I have to apologize every time a commercial comes on, b/c I zone out. That’s so weird… I really thought it was just me having a short attention span…

Karol

Thanks Christopher. I was hoping you’d share your thoughts on this topic. From my perspective it has always seemed like content creators (TV/film makers) don’t actually have time to watch TV because they’re too busy creating it. :)

I know the zombie state as well. Before I stopped watching TV in 2006 I would easily watch for 12 hours/day. (It would be on in the background all day long while I was working.)

David Damron

Let me preface this by saying I watch very little TV…maybe 2 hours per week, so I am complete agreement that most TV is pointless…..However…..

If you read a book or blog post that made you think, understand or enjoy something about life more, would you call it a waste of life.

For example, LOST was a series that brought about in-depth analysis of human interaction and meaning (At least to me.) So, why does it not carry the value of reading a blog post or reading a book?

Just curious…still on your side about most TV

David Damron
LifeExcursion

David Damron

P.S. If LOST were a book before a television show, I would have just read it….

Karol

Sorry man, burnt out on this topic already. It wasn’t even the point of this article. :) Suffice it to say that the smartest, most successful (in business and in life) people I know do not waste their lives with TV. If I’m going to follow anybody’s lead it will be somebody who has done things I admire. Getting rid of TV was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made. Did I make a lot of money while I owned/watched TV a lot? Yes. Was I successful? No. Things have changed for the better. :)

David Damron

Cool…I understand

David Damron
LifeExcursion

Stanley Lee

Karol,

Would’ve made a bigger punchline if there’s a grid diagram. I enjoyed reading the duality shown on your site about what matters and what doesn’t.

Stanley

Karol

Yeah, I thought about that, but decided it wouldn’t add enough to the article to make it worth the time.

Brandon

I get where you are coming from with this article but I disagree that everything matters. Spending more time doing things that create and make a difference sounds great and vegging out takes away from that but you can’t spend every moment focusing on what’s important. Lets be honest. Important and beneficial means how can I profit so that I can earn enough to have free time and enjoy life? Money is just a tool to get you there and relaxation is subjective. Can laying on a beach be seen as vegging out? What about attending or watching a sports game? Having a few drinks and talking about nothing? All things we love to do (including wealthy people)………..

Q

What a great follow-up to the last post. :)

I want to say something, but you said it all so well, I have nothing more to add!

Off to find something important and beneficial to do with my day…thanks for the inspiration, as usual, Karol.

Karol

Rock on Q!

Craig

Great post Karol. I’m still thinking about it a day later. Thanks for making me think.

Karol

Thanks Craig. Glad it got you thinking. :)

Laurie

Been thinking about this TV debate…I quit watching TV regularly when I was about 16, which is 24 years ago now. It wasn’t intentional, just that my few favorite shows got cancelled and I didn’t start watching new ones. I would always rather read books. I have to admit that not watching TV made me rather prideful at times, feeling superior to all those poor sods who wasted so much time in front of the tube. But sometimes I’m convicted when I spend hours in my recliner reading fantasy novels…just a couch potato of a different stripe.

In the past three months or so I’ve nearly quit reading fantasy and started writing a lot more. Blogging keeps me on my toes and I feel much more fulfilled :)

Karol

Hey Laurie, congrats on quitting TV before it was the cool thing to do. ;)

As for fantasy novels: just like watching a TV show, there is no problem with that. If you enjoy something you shouldn’t stop.

If enjoying a guilty pleasure is used in place of achieving something you want to achieve that becomes a problem.

Laurie

I was using fantasy novels to escape. Giving them up has happened a lot like I gave up TV…not really intentional, it’s just that I got into other stuff that *is* helping me achieve meaningful things. I’m sure I’ll read fantasy in the future…”The Lord of the Rings” NEVER gets old :)

Brad

I think the point is that real difference comes in creating, not passively observing. In my grandpa’s list of five things essential to happiness in life, he always lists as number 3 doing something that provides a sense of accomplishment and purpose. I’ve derived plenty of joy from observing other people’s creating – or been bored out of my mind or worsened by it – but I’ve yet to receive a sense of accomplishment from it. But whether I’m observing or creating, of course it matters. I’m being shaped by something else or I’m shaping my own life. There’s a time for each, but to me Freedom is about setting my own course. Creating. Not observing. Whatever we choose to do with the 24 daily hours we have, it all matters.

Karol

“I think the point is that real difference comes in creating, not passively observing.” – fantastic point. Wish I would’ve made it! :) Thanks Brad!

Galen Pearl

“You’d be right. And so would I.” I don’t think we need to have consensus on the merits or lack thereof of TV, junk food, or anything. What I understand from this post is that we should be mindful of our choices. We might all have different examples of what we think is important or beneficial, but we can all agree that considering these qualities will help us make more conscious choices in our lives.

Karol

You’re right on Galen. :)

Laura Saba

Hi Karol,

One can get confused reading the comments here! This is one of your most important and insightful posts yet, and yet it seems many people hit the few comments in your post about tv, and got thrown off track as to what your point is. I find that this happens in ‘real life’ too. You can have an entire (important!) conversation about something with someone, but then you hit a ‘trigger’ in them, which may have only been an analogy you used, or something you said casually in passing within the bigger conversation, but once they ‘heard’ the ‘trigger’ they no longer recalled they were discussing something bigger. The tiny trigger comment seems to grow bigger and bigger, until it is all they take away from the conversation. I find this ‘trigger point distraction’ interesting, though frustrating. But, while I wanted to comment on that because it seems the comments here are such a profound example of it, I actually had more relevant comments to make in terms of your post overall.

So, about your post: I have been contemplating this concept for years now, and I have concluded (at least until life presents evidence to the contrary) that indeed, *everything counts* I have written of this extensively in some of my published books, and on my websites, and I have spoken of it in my workshops. It is a BIG conversation, but to try to sum it up I will say: For whatever it is you choose to spend your time in, you are eliminating countless other options. You never ‘just don’t make a choice’ because even in doing nothing, you are, by default, *choosing* NOT TO DO SOMETHING. So every action or inaction you take, is, at the end of the day, an action, even if it LOOKS like inaction. By this I mean if you are (gasp! Dare I use this as an example, given the comments here?) sitting on your couch watching TV, it means you are not spending time in your community, learning a new skill, exercising, learning to cook a new meal, reading a book, creating something new in the world, etc. So, you are not ‘just watching tv’ – you are also CHOOSING TO SPEND YOUR TIME WATCHING TV INSTEAD OF ENDLESS OTHER POSSIBILITIES. And this is HUGE. And it is NOT just about TV, it is about ANYTHING you choose to do. Whenever you select one thing, you de-select an endless list of others.

In my “Saving Green: A family Guide to Saving Money While Saving the Planet” as well as in my “Order From Chaos”, I speak of ”the currency of life.” This is the ONLY REAL ASSET WE POSSESS. What is this currency? Our life moments. We have only so many of them (and we don’t know until they run out what our bank balance was!), and when and where we choose to spend them determines when and where we DON’T spend them, as well. And with that currency you are BUYING YOUR LIFE. You are creating your life story, with every choice in every moment. We ink the story of our life one moment at a time, one decision at a time. And our story becomes embedded within the larger story of the human race.

We MUST expend life currency in order to survive. If we want to eat, we must either spend our time hunting, gathering, farming, or working and purchasing food. The world extols a tax from us for this right to eat, in the form of life moments we have to give in exchange for our very survival. EVERYTHING we do counts in this equation. And everything we do creates a large pattern of what we DON’T do, as well. But I digress, as that is just one example of how our life moments are a kind of currency.

Let me get a bit more personal, and share some of my own experience with ‘life currency.’ I am a recently remarried, formerly single, homeschooling mom. I have invented toys and board games, written numerous published books, written i-phone apps, volunteered endlessly for many projects ranging from Habitat for Humanity to WIC and Safechild. I have been a life coach, I have created a program for ADD/ADHD kids, I have been a foster parent, I am a certified Integrative Nutritional Health Counselor. Before all that, I worked at MTV and promoted clubs in NYC. I have spent 6 months traveling (mostly camping) my way across the US with my two sons in tow. I have spent almost a year traveling much of the globe. The list goes on. And oftentimes people comment to me on what an ‘extraordinary life’ I have, and they ask me ‘how do you do it? how do you find the time for it?’ They oftentimes assume I have had unusual advantages. I have not. In fact, once, when my children were very young and their father ran off while I was still pregnant with my younger son, I even went on welfare for a short time. I am, totally and categorically, ‘self-created’ so to speak.

How did I do it? How did I find the time? I am DEFINITELY NOT MORE EXTRAORDINARY THAN ANYONE ELSE. I just made different choices, moment by moment, in HOW I SPENT MY LIFE CURRENCY (which I see as a form of minimalism – I select very carefully how I manage this most important life resource). For many years, I never watched tv. I wrote books in that time; I completed certification courses in that time; I volunteered in my community in that time; I read an unbelievable number of books in that time. I built personal and business relationships. Too, because I didn’t watch tv, I didn’t feel as seduced by advertising as most people seem to, and subsequently I gravitated toward a more minimalistic lifestyle. Living on the road furthered that passion, as I learned what I coined in an earlier book “Addition by Subtraction” – my life grew in abundance, joy, and satisfaction the more I let go of things that didn’t make it amazing beyond belief. EVERY MOMENT COUNTED. EVERY ITEM I POSSESSED COUNTED because items also extract life currency (as written in both books mentioned above) as we must exchange life moments in order to earn, build, or somehow purchase them, again in maintaining, caring for and eventually discarding them. And whenever I told myself otherwise (through rationalizing that ‘no, THIS will improve my life’ in some odd way that some advertiser had managed to sneak in a message to me about), life soon taught me I was just lying to myself. IT ALL COUNTS. WHAT WE DO AND WHAT WE DON’T DO. If you need further evidence, look at Nazi Germany. Only a few actually committed the atrocities. But they occurred in part because many stood by and DID NOTHING. What we do matters. What we don’t do also matters. And not a moment of it fails to count. We can tell ourselves that ‘this is not a big deal’ – and the thing you are spending your life currency on may NOT be a big deal, truly….HOWEVER, that ‘not a big deal’ expenditure of time may have pre-empted a space in which you would have otherwise spent your time…that may have been a REALLY BIG DEAL. Watching a re-run of friends may have prevented you from going out and meeting the love of your life that night, or from lending a hand in your community that could lead to change or growth, or going for the run that could prevent that heart attack. Nothing is small, because again, when you select one thing, you are de-selecting a huge list of others.

In the end, we are made up of every last little action and inaction we took or failed to take. Our life story is written moment by moment. And we can make it anything we want, and we are incredibly empowered in this. Granted we can’t choose what life throws our way, but we can choose what to do with it, and who to be through it. Karol, I think this is perhaps your best, and most important, post yet, and I think it is a real shame that many have been distracted by the television comments to the point where they lost the message. However, that may be par for the course, in fact quite necessary. See, I think the anger wasn’t really about the TV, but the implications. If one has to own that EVERY CHOICE AND ACTION MATTERS, one has to become greatly accountable for their time – not to anyone else, but to themselves. And that can be a hard pill to swallow. For instance, for all people think and comment on my having accomplished, what truly stuns me is this: How lazy I feel. I know that for everything I HAVE done, I have also wasted/frittered away many moments, daydreaming, catching a movie, staring up at the sky on a warm summer’s day. Yet, those moments count too, and do indeed help create who I am, and it can be argued that they too are a part of the learning and growth process. However, I sometimes think, “Wow, with what I’ve accomplished in the moments I’ve spent wisely, imagine what I could have done if I were actually more disciplined?” With all the moments I’ve spent well, I am aware of those I spent ineffectively. And don’t get me wrong, I think that an afternoon on a sailboat, or tooling around in an open cockpit taildragger are DEFINITELY wonderful uses of time, even if they don’t ‘create’ something in life. There is certainly room for just ‘down time’….but….wow, there are low level uses of down time and high level ones. For me, personally, sometimes a movie that gets me thinking IS a good use of down time, that allows my mind to just kick back and process subconsciously what goes on in my life at the moment. But….it must be a conscious decision to sit back and veg, and it must be in balance, big time. . And perhaps the most important element in that is to be AWARE: This too counts. It matters. I can choose to spend my time engaged in this vegging out activity, but in doing so, I am also acknowledging that IT DOES COUNT, and by selecting it, I am de-selecting other things. And I am aware that this action, and the inactions that come along with it, are part of the life story I’m writing. Remembering this seems to help me select better overall, because quite honestly, I want to live a life uncommon, I want my life story to be one worth having lived, I want my life story to be a fun and interesting part of the human story-book. And that helps get my butt off the couch, and out into the world, doing things that feel more like living than existing.

Sorry about the soap-box speech here. Just…you wrote something TREMENDOUSLY important, and it is SO frustrating to see so many losing sight of the import of what you were getting at, as they got hung up on something within it. There are moments where I want to climb the the greatest heights of this planet and scream, “WAKE UP!” But I fear the volume of televisions may be turned up too high for my voice to be heard…

So comments on a blog post and books and lectures seem to be the next best thing, even though more often than not it feels like one is ‘preaching to the choir’ rather than reaching those who could most benefit from what you can share.

Karol, keep up the most extraordinary blogging. You truly are ridiculously extraordinary, and your blog is a joy and pleasure to read.

Namaste.

See, Karol, I don’t feel I’ve been a ‘workaholic’ or anything. Quite the opposite in fact. It is just that I: A) didn’t watch tv (you can accomplish so much in a decade of no tv!) and B) Created location independent work for myself very early on, not needing to clock in and out. This meant I had to learn how to make every moment working productive, if I wanted to find time to enjoy the things that really mattered (time with my kids, learning to dance, learning to fly a plane, travel, etc).

I have NEVER been ‘wealthy’ but I have always had what I’ve needed. I’ve seen much of the world, I’ve had fantastic experiences, and

Karol

Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to articulate what I was trying to say in a much more accessible fashion. :)

I love the currency metaphor. It’s so true that when we choose to spend our time by wasting it, we’re trading time that could have resulted in monumental change. And at the same time, sometimes wasting time is exactly what we need to invest in a fulfilled life. :)

Laura, you rock. I’m sorry your comment got cut off. I guess Wordpress has a comment length limit. :(

Laurie

Laura, I agree…”Sorry about the soap-box speech here. Just…you wrote something TREMENDOUSLY important, and it is SO frustrating to see so many losing sight of the import of what you were getting at, as they got hung up on something within it.”
This post will keep me thinking for weeks. Karol is reaching me, the recently converted. I’ve gone from feeling stuck to feeling tremendously hopeful in a matter of a few months. I know more will join us. :)
Thanks for your thoughts, I think you rock, too!
Laurie

trent

killed my tv 8 years ago now… at 18 years old, never looked back

Karol

Kick ass Trent! You are a much smarter man than I. :)

Rosa

Wow lots of passionate posts. Way to get people riled up Karol !
Everything does matter, the key is to try to balance our choices.
Not to beat the TV issue to death, but it did help me learn another language :) yet I do find myself at times getting sucked in and that is when I know is time to step away.

Karol

Hey Rosa, congrats on using the TV to learn another language! I would venture to guess that it’s rarely used for something so productive. :)

Simon

Hi,
Your “Four Stages of Importance” are quite similar to Stephen Covey’s “Four-quadrant matrix for importance and urgency” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MerrillCoveyMatrix.png). Inspiration? :)

Karol

Interesting! I haven’t read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits in 10+ years, but I guess it was an inspiration. :)

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