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The Three Conditions for Making Ordinary Magic

Magic is all around you. Maybe you’ve even made some magic of your own.

What you might not realize is that there’s a formula for such a thing. This formula requires three conditions to be met before magic can occur:

1. You have a crazy idea. 2. You can’t stop thinking about the crazy idea. 3. You decide to do something about it.

Note that all three conditions need to be met. Merely meeting one or two of them isn’t sufficient.

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To Every Thing, A Season

You probably know the song, the one that borrows its lyrics from the book of ‎Ecclesiastes: to every thing, there is a season for every activity under the heavens.

Seasons have been on my mind lately, as I’ve been transitioning from my busiest month of the year into a time of more focused creative work. I’m grateful for both of these seasons—I wouldn’t want to choose between them—but my life and work in each of them feels very different.

In my creative work season, I’m working on a new book and I take joy in writing every day. I’m able to exercise more and feel less stressed about being behind on a million things. So is this fundamentally better?

I don’t think so. Because last month I visited 14 cities, speaking to readers and the media about 100 SIDE HUSTLES—and then I hosted a weeklong event in Portland for 1,000 people. All of that was fun, too. Almost every day I thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I get to do this! I feel so fortunate.”

The challenge comes if you try to apply the same rules of order or general expectations to each season.

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Return of the Annual Review! Let’s Do This! (I mean, if you want.)

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplash Over the past eight nine ten! years, nothing has helped me to accomplish big goals and stay on track more than a single exercise I complete each December: the Annual Review.

Last year I got a little off track and didn't finish for the first time in a decade. It wasn't pretty. Good news: just like Britney, I'm back.

For much of the next week I'll be working only half-time while I consider some of my successes, failures, and lessons learned from 2018.

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Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Hear Is “It’s Going to Be Okay”

I've had a few people write in to ask me if I've stopped blogging. Nope—but I'm sorry! It sure looks that way.

I've just been on hiatus while writing a new book. I'll tell you about it soon, and I very much look forward to getting back to regular posts here. (In the meantime, the daily podcast continues.)

For now, I thought I'd pop up and express something that's been on my mind. Every now and then, I see a post offering "Advice for My Younger Self," and I've been asked to share mine in interviews from time to time.

The question I've learned to ask, when working through various issues, is, "What is six-year-old Chris feeling right now?" It's an interesting practice, at least to someone like me who doesn't naturally think this way.

If I could go back in time to talk to a younger Chris, though, I'm not sure it would be the six-year-old version. I think it would be a version somewhere in the 11-14 age range.

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No Reservations to Parts Unknown: Thank You, Anthony Bourdain

I wasn’t always an Anthony Bourdain fan. My first exposure to him came when I read a critical comment he’d made that didn’t sit right with me. But that was evidently just a passing comment, and I didn’t even know the context, so a couple of years ago I started paying more attention to him. I enjoyed his show whenever I saw clips of it in hotel lounges and airports around the world.

Then I read a New Yorker profile that radically shifted my early perspective. I loved it! I remember reading it more than once while traveling in some country or another, no doubt one that he'd been to as well.

I liked the article so much partly because I identified with his style and approach. I could see parts of myself in how he lived. Not in terms of the level of success, since I am no Anthony Bourdain in that department, but in terms of his work ethic and willingness to keep pushing himself over and over.

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If You Want to Make Money, Don’t Study Hard in School

If you want to make money, question the rules and don’t study hard in school. That’s the finding of a new study.

In 1968, researchers began studying 12-year-old students who were in the sixth grade. They examined the influence of their intelligence, characteristics, behaviors and their parents' socioeconomic status.

Then, 40 years later, they followed up with those students. Not surprisingly, the students who were described by teachers as "studious" were more likely to have prestigious jobs. But, the studious kids didn't make the most money in adulthood.

The highest income earners were the "naughty kids." The kids who broke the rules and defied parental authority became the highest income earners as adults.

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The Truth Is a Terrible Thing, But Not Compared to Falsehood

Reality isn’t just what someone tells you. They could be lying to you, or they just might be speaking from their own limited perspective. We know this, right? We can't just accept at face value everything we hear.

But reality also isn’t just what you tell yourself, at least not if you're trying to avoid something. You too have a limited perspective. You have weaknesses, insecurities, and fears that can be surprisingly resilient in their pursuit of a false narrative.

Reality is at least somewhat objective, at least when it comes to basic facts. Sure, you can interpret those facts as you’d like, but facts are facts.

When you choose to persistently believe something that you know, deep down, might not actually be true, you’re lying to the most important person in your life: yourself.

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To Win the Lottery, Buy a Ticket and Never Check the Numbers

I recently bought my first lottery ticket in something like 15 years. The purchase happened on a whim, as I was walking down the street in California. When I passed by a minimart, I thought, “I should go inside and buy a lottery ticket.” And so I did.

To a lottery novice such as myself, the process was a little confusing. Apparently there’s not just one lottery... there are many! Not being familiar with the pros and cons of various options, I asked the clerk for the cheapest one.

I bought the ticket on a lark and didn’t really have a plan at first. But then, before I left the store, I knew what I would do next: nothing at all. I’d hold on to the ticket but never check the numbers to see if I’d won.

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Under the Unseen Blue Sky in Sydney, Australia

If you’re going through a dark night of the soul, you might as well pass the time in a beautiful place.

That’s what I was thinking as my hour-long Qantas flight from Melbourne began its descent to Sydney. Australia has long been a place of joy and peace for me, and Sydney in particular. Ever since I first stumbled into town five years ago, when I was denied boarding on a flight from Brisbane to Nauru (long story), I’ve been coming back every chance I get.

This time felt different because, well, I’m different. I’ve been judging the days on a 1-10 scale, and I get excited—at least moderately so—when I feel higher than a 3.

And so as the flight lands in Sydney and I take the airport train to the city, bracing myself against an onset of anxiety, I begin my self-talk.

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Don’t Feel Pressured To Find Your Life’s Purpose At Age 21

I don't think you're supposed to know your true passion or purpose right away. It tends to emerge as you embark on different paths.

It's good that you're frustrated—it shows that you understand the importance of the search. But I think the best thing you can do is be open and explore different paths. The truest one tends to appear as you go along, not before you start.

At least that's how it was for me. From a young age I felt exactly what you describe: the idea that I was just pushing my life along with no north star.

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The Importance of Having a Breakdown, AKA “What Happened to the Annual Review”

What can I say about the Annual Review process that I’ve completed without fail for more than a decade?

This year, I gave up on it and walked away.

Well, not quite—that would be an exaggeration. But to be fully honest (and we shall return to this phrase again), I had a hard time facing it. Eventually I was able to make some progress, which I’ll note below, but the overall sense was one of sadness.

Last year was hard, too. And there have been other hard years. This time, however, felt nearly insurmountable.

A challenge became a struggle. The struggle became a crisis, and the crisis became, well, something that approaches a total breakdown.

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2017 Annual Review: How to Evaluate Your Life Even When You’re Feeling Sad

Last year I resisted my Annual Review for the first time in 10 years. This year, what can I say... I guess it’s the second wave of resistance.

Over the past month I’ve entered a season of wandering in the wilderness. I don’t want to sound overly-mopey, so I’ll spare you the details. I know I’ll get through it at some point; it’s just hard to celebrate accomplishments or feel festive at the moment.

There are still several reasons why I’m going to proceed with the review...

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When You’re Stuck in a Hole, Look for Someone to Join You: A Lesson in Empathy

A man is walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.

A doctor passes by and the man shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and the man shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.

Then a friend walks by. “Hey, it’s me," the man calls out. "Can you help?” And then the friend jumps in the hole...

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A Field Guide to Wandering in the Wilderness of the Soul

When you’re wandering cobblestone streets in Europe, stopping at cafes and making unexpected discoveries, it’s fun to lose your way and wander off the well-trodden path. You’re on an adventure! When you’re out on a long run and don’t mind if you take a wrong turn or two, you know that the extra distance is good for you.

But here’s the thing: you’re not really lost in those situations. You’re exactly where you wanted to be, even if you didn’t know it before you took the detour. That’s why "getting lost" feels oddly welcoming.

When it comes to wandering in the wilderness of the soul, however, it’s a different situation. This is the wilderness where you feel truly lost. You lack direction, enthusiasm, or purpose—or maybe all three. You don’t know what to do, and every option you can see feels like two steps backwards.

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The Limits of Lifehacking: What Happens When You Approach Optimization?

I have a weird memory of my dad explaining math to me when I was a kid. I never actually learned real math, at least once it went beyond how to pocket extra lunch money, and still haven’t learned 30-odd years later.

But my dad was a good storyteller, and often taught me lessons using examples. One time he told me how if you stood across the room and moved halfway toward the wall, and then halfway again, and then kept moving only halfway over and over, you would never actually reach the wall.

As a ten-year-old, my mind was blown. You'll never reach the wall if you only move halfway, even if you spend 10 years moving over and over?

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