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Notes on a Full Life, Live from CX 883

hong-kong-sunrise

Hi everyone. I’m high on life and writing in from the Cathay Pacific LAX-HKG flight. I’m fading fast, but with 13 hours to go until arrival, there should be plenty of time to a) sleep and b) write this note to you.

It’s been a full week in my world so far. On Sunday I got up early and drove a rental car half an hour out of town to get to a half-marathon race. Monday was spent prepping for the product launch — I worked on it off-and-on throughout the day, finishing up just after 11pm. At 5am the next morning, I got up to do the last-minute things and launch the product. A day in the life of a product launch deserves an article all of its own, so we’ll save that one for later.

Wednesday I started my latest trip by heading south and meeting with 40+ remarkable people who all braved Los Angeles freeways to come out and visit with me and each other. (Note to you guys: thank you all for coming, it was an honor to meet you. Stay tuned for Extreme Gratitude, L.A. Edition on Sunday.)

After not eating much during the day and engaging with people non-stop from 2pm-11pm, I went to the airport and got on a 14-hour flight. While schlepping through security and waiting to board, I was starting to drag after all the excitement over the past few days, but I also had a deep sense of fulfillment.

My life is so great! I’m thrilled! What else could I want?

Important: the point in all of this is not just to be busy. Lots of people can be busy and never get anything done. Instead, I am interested in filling my life with big things that challenge and energize me.

At the end of the day, I want to be tired – not from a grind of tasks that leave me with a feeling of “what did I really do today” but with a sense of wow. I want adventures.

For me, the recent adventures have been marathons, product launches, meetups, and travel. Next week’s adventures take me to Bhutan, a country I’ve been hearing about for years but have never made it to until now. Your adventures may vary, but if you’re like many of the people who read this site, you need adventures of your own on a regular basis.

Here is how I see it:

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, from Flow

Half-marathons are difficult and worthwhile. Product launches are difficult and worthwhile. Getting to Nepal takes time, but I’m glad to do it. And so on.

Note that not each step along the way is enjoyable. The half-marathon, for example, went like this:

Miles 1-3: cautious, warming up
Miles 4-6: feeling better
Miles 7-9: initial onset of fatigue, but also growing confidence that I would finish the race well
Miles 10-12: this is so hard
Miles 12-13.1: ommmmmmm one foot in front of the other ommmmmmm

If it was supposed to be easy, then the race would be six miles, not 13.1. On Sunday, my race effectively began at mile 10. I finished fairly well (1:39:57), but those last few miles were definitely pushing it.

The premise extends to my other adventures. The last time I was in Hong Kong, my onward flight to Malaysia was delayed 14 hours. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but looking back, I’m not sure I would have done anything different about the trip. I could always live a normal life and not get stuck in Hong Kong airport until 3am, right? No thanks.

rwanda-jenlemen

The Problem with Burnout

The whole concern about burnout has always bugged me. Personally I’d rather go for something and see how far I can take it without worrying about running out of steam.

If anything, I think my life has been too restrained thus far. I want to say yes more. There’s a lot more left that I want to do, and we can’t recover anything from yesterday.

Besides, think about it this way:

Wouldn’t you rather burn out doing something you love than plod along doing something you merely put up with?

Don’t get me wrong; I have no plans of going down in flames in the foreseeable future. I have a close circle of trusted advisors that I listen to carefully. If they told me I was in danger of exhaustion or boredom (the latter being more dangerous, I think), I’d pay attention and make some changes.

But my close advisors are also the kind of people who understand that I shouldn’t always be making the safe choices. They know me, and they know I’d die a slow death if I slowed down too much. I went in the bank the other day to open a new account and looked around at everyone working there. I felt like I aged three days in the 40 minutes I sat in the chair filling out paperwork. I just can’t fathom the idea of a life like that.

All things considered, I’d rather regret something I did than regret something I wanted to do but was restrained by fear or insecurity from going for it. In other words, I want a full life. I don’t want to miss out on anything. There will always be time to sleep later.

Speaking of Sleep

Twelve hours have sped by now (I ate dinner, took a two-hour nap, and watched the first parts of a few movies), and the sun is coming up as we approach the city. Many of you will already be halfway through with your Thursday when this gets posted, but it’s bright and early Friday morning over in this part of the world.

I’m hoping to take another nap before catching my connecting flight to Nepal, but first I have a Skype interview to do a few minutes after I land. Hong Kong airport, here we come.

Good Questions to Ask

  • What’s out there waiting for you to take hold of?
  • What’s most important to you?
  • What can you do to embrace your own full life?

You can answer the questions here if you want, but that’s optional. What’s not optional is making decisions. Every day we all make decisions actively or passively, and I am an advocate for active decision-making. What I am prodding people about, including myself on a daily basis, is making choices deliberately.

Thanks for reading this far. Thanks to everyone I saw in L.A. last night. Thanks for being remarkable and inspiring me to go further.

###

Hong Kong Sunrise by Slack12. Rwanda Image by The Remarkable Jen Lemen

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48 Comments

  • What a lovely post—so full of joy and energy (how *do* you do it?) and yet so tender-hearted and true.

    L.A. loved having you, and I think I speak for the entire unconventional tribe when I say I look forward to seeing what steps you take next.

  • Be says:

    What’s out there waiting for you to take hold of? Riding a motorcycle from New Hampshire, USA to the southern tip of South America.
    What’s most important to you? Have passion in my life. Working hard to achieve goals. My family. Learning.
    What can you do to embrace your own full life? Just get it done! I dreamed of this ride. I made a conscious decisions to live cheap and save money. I made sacrifices but am very happy with the choices I have made. The adventure will begin soon and I’m patiently excited!

    PS: Great site. Keep up the good work.

  • I would say I envy you Chris, but…………….yes, in fact I do envy you, lol. Sounds like an exciting adventure, and I am preparing to take part in some world travels myself very soon. I used to work in a bank. I felt like one of those frogs put in warm water that gradually begins to boil…..a slow death. So I know EXACTLY what you mean.

    Congrats on your half-marathon though, continue to live well!

  • Karen says:

    You sound busy! But, good busy. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the meet up in LA last night…. something came up so I couldn’t go. It sounds like it was a good time, as usual though.

    A friend of mine is in Nepal teaching English right now, and says it is one of the most magical places in the world… can’t wait to hear what your experience is of it!

    Enjoy your trip!

  • Rebecca says:

    Awesome! I’m doing a trail half marathon this weekend. I’m so nervous. Bhutan? I was there last year and it was fantastic. So, I’m thinking about doing Marathon des Dunes.

    Wonder if I can handle that…

    Keep up the good work!

    R

  • reminds me of a beautiful thought from David Whyte, “The cure for exhaustion isn’t rest – it’s enthusiasm.” I sleep (way) less, do more, and run harder than I ever have and have more to burn because I’m doing what I lovelovelove.

  • I need to embrace my desire to get my business off the ground. I’m working a full time job at a financial institution and I do age 3 days every 40 minutes. I’m back office, it’s not as bad as the front office. But still not where I want to be.

    I’m going to embrace my life by going for it. I’m going to announce a teleseminar soon. It’s time to throw out the gauntlet and make my dreams come true.

  • Good questions, Chris. Lately, I’ve been thinking alot about the list of things I want to do and accomplish, but have held myself back thinking that I’ll get too overwhelmed. I think that I’m going to start remembering to trust my gut – I’ll know when it gets too much, I’m sure. Perhaps “balance” is more about how we, as individuals, (not the self-help books) define it – whether that’s 20 hours a day of doing activities or sleeping the day away. All about how we want to create our life. Have a great trip!

  • What a great post, and a great outlook on life.

    > “What can [I] do to embrace my own full life?”

    My wife and I (and our two kids) just made the decision to sell everything and move to Costa Rica! (And then onto somewhere else when we’re ready to move on. We’re excited to see how we grow and what we learn from the experience. If you want to follow our adventures, you can do so on our site.

    It’s time to life a full life!!!

  • Moom says:

    There’s mostly a danger of burnout not from doing to much but from lack of balance and then experiencing “diminishing returns” in the one direction you are pursuing. But you are doing lots of different things: travelling, running, writing etc. and so I can’t see that being a problem. I’ve gone through periods of feeling burned out in my academic work and that’s just an indicator to focus on something else for a while. I’d much rather burnout than rust 🙂

  • I find it a struggle to be busy at meaningful things each day. It is very easy to be “doing” all day but get nothing really “done.” Sometimes its hard to know when I get something done. A lot of the time certain activities like marketing yourself or providing value to others is working or not. The lack of positive feedback in valuable activities is what tends to lead to lack of effort in my eyes. I think the key is to have perspective and clear goals so that I can look back over the day or week and realize accomplishments.

  • Carmen says:

    What an excellent post! I am in the process of learning how to “say yes more,” and agree with you that “I’d rather regret something I did than regret something I wanted to do but was restrained by fear or insecurity from going for it.”
    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  • You have a great life Chris.

    There is a big difference between mental fatigue and physical fatigue. Working a lousy job that you hate makes you mentally tired, even though you may not be doing much physical work.

    Moving around, not sleeping regularly, doing sports and keeping active, like you are, is a physical tiredness. This physical activity from an engaged and exciting life is exactly what is needed to erase mental fatigue.

    Too many people just zone out in front of the TV or lounge around the house in their free time. They are not recharging their mental energy. You actually need to do more to feel more relaxed and refreshed.

    It is clear that you have mastered the art.

  • Wayne says:

    Saying “yes” is not so much the problem for me. I’ve said yes numerous times, however, not without fear. My problem is learning when to say “no”.

    My fear doesn’t come from stepping out and trying something new, but from worrying that I maybe forfeiting another “better” opportunity.

    I find myself saying yes to too many things, and not devoting myself completely to any of them.

  • Wyman says:

    Great post,

    I have mastered four of the one hundred success principles I am studying and writing about.
    1. I read or listen to new material for one hour+, every day.
    2. I brainstorm about it and my Internet Business for a 1/2 hour.
    3. I take notes for future articles and books.
    4. I write to my mastermind group 3 times a week. Working on getting them to do same.

    My Internet Marketing project is maturing. I am having fun.

    I am also working on walking for an hour every day using my walker. The doctor says not to use walking as an exercise (fused ankle) but I sure feel better. I’m going for it in my 72 year old way.

  • Francesca says:

    The meetup was great! Such good energy and people and I’m glad I braved the LA traffic to make it – so nice to meet you 🙂

    This is a truly excellent post. I love the quote from “Flow” and especially what you said about wanting to be tired from adventures, not chores. Early New Year’s resolution: Have more adventures.

    Happy Friday

  • Emily says:

    “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” -Margaret Thatcher

    This is a quote that I feel coincides extremely well with this post, and it’s also a quote I’ve printed out and pasted in various places to remind myself what kind of days, and consequently what kind of life, I’m striving for. This quote is just one of the things that has helped me in changing my life for the better, and another is your blog. Thank you very much for your amazing insight, and I will definitely come back for more.

  • Coach J says:

    Congrats on the half! I have a half coming up in October. I’m looking to break 2:00 for the first time.

    I really like the idea of life as an adventure. However, I think “adventure” is somewhat subjective. For me, the yearly adventure of starting the new school year with a brand new pack of (hopefully) eager students is enough to get my heart racing. What ever your passion happens to be, treat it as an adventure and it will be. Happy travels to you.

  • pbrennan says:

    The ommmmmmmm of 12 to 13.1 continues on through 26.2. But it is well worth the adventure and offers great perspective that definitely translates to life experience.
    Whether you’re running a marathon, traveling the world, starting off with your own venture, doing a combination of the three or all at once, your heart pumps faster and stronger than most. It’s an amazing feeling. Embrace it!

  • claire says:

    Your post reminded me of this exchange from Gattaca:
    Anton Freeman: Vincent! How are you doing this Vincent? How have you done any of this? We have to go back.
    Vincent: It’s too late for that. We’re closer to the other side.
    Anton Freeman: What other side? You wanna drown us both?
    Vincent: You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.

  • Your words are wonderful 🙂 I can feel pure happiness in your life and it is really uplifting to read your post. Thanks for that!

  • Kevin M says:

    “Wouldn’t you rather burn out doing something you love than plod along doing something you merely put up with? ”

    I need to remember this and start living my life the way I want to instead of just drifting along. What a fantastic outlook on life.

  • Colin Wright says:

    Ugh, wish I could have made it to the LA meetup (I was up in Napa, unable to return to LA until Thursday). Sounds like it was a ball, though. Anyone from that group want to schedule another get-together in the near-future? I’m moving in 6 days, so it would have to be soon 🙂

    You definitely hit the nail on the head with burnout. It’s so easy to justify pulling back from your ambitions and avoid going full-throttle due to a feat of overdoing it, but if you are good at self-evaluation and keep a cadre of trustworthy friends and associates nearby, there’s no reason to not finish the race, head-held high, legs sore but already on their way to recovery.

  • Sue says:

    Hi Chris,

    I would say you’re probably not in too much danger of “burn-out” if you are keeping incredibly busy with things you love doing as those activities will feed your spirit. From what I’ve read–and experienced–burn-out is more of a constellation of mental/emotional/spiritual/physical symptoms, triggered by spending far too much time doing jobs and tasks that feel like–or in fact are–drudgery.

    If I recall correctly, you are going through Vancouver, BC on your return flight, aren’t you? So you’re all ready for the tough questions from our immigration and customs officers? I had to chuckle about your comments about the experience in a previous post, although I can assure you that the laughter comes from a place of deep empathy. If it makes you feel any better,they are no less tough on Canadians coming back into their own country!

  • This is a great article. Life is a series of adventures, and we each have to ask ourselves this question every morning: “If I had $100 million in the bank, what would I do today?” If you don’t go about doing those exact things, then you have some work to do. Life is too short to sacrifice excitement and passion for boredom and security. Don’t let fear hold you back. Remember, you could get hit by a bus and die tomorrow. Now how important is that 401(K)?

  • laís says:

    Chris, it’s really inspiring reading you. Knowing that there are other people in the world who can’t stand sitting down forever – and would die of boredom – makes me feel more comfortable with my own plans. Hope someday I can join a meeting with you guys 🙂

  • Tyler McCann says:

    As I was scanning your article one theme caught my eye; three words specifically – “say yes more.” I am happy you mentioned this and wrote an entry on it. New experiences and overcoming fears are the events that really move our spirits forward. Without change and new adaptation we stagnate and dissolve. I continue to challenge my fear of meeting new people with a goal of meeting one new person each day this month.

    Also, good luck with your marathon running. I respect you immensely!

    @Brandon Price, WOW! I hope to be doing this same thing when I grow older and am out of school. Way to go!

  • Great post. I love your reflections on how life is busy but fulfilling at the same time. Boredom is truly more dangerous for most people than burnout.

  • I know that you meant this mainly in a “work” way, but I can’t help thinking how much it applies to my weekends! If I just stay home all weekend, even though I’ve “relaxed,” I feel much more stressed out and unwilling to return to work on Monday. However, if I’ve planned something exciting and accomplished it (whether it’s going on a hike, making an elaborate meal, or even accomplishing a few chores or going out for dinner somewhere new) I feel much more energized and ready to go back to my desk.

    If I feel this way just from having a fun and productive weekend, I can only imagine how great it will be to live that way every day of the week, like you choose to do. I have a feeling this is another article of yours that I’ll be re-reading for inspiration!

  • Todd says:

    Jack London (1876 – 1916) put it this way:

    “I would rather be ashes than dust,
    a spark burnt out in a brilliant blaze,
    than be stifled in dry rot…
    for man’s chief purpose is to live,
    not to exist;
    I shall not waste my days
    trying to prolong them;
    I shall use my time.”

    Perhaps not coincidentally, I found this quote and wrote it in my travel journal while visiting Australia – it’s on a plaque embedded in the sidewalk surrounding the Sydney opera house.

  • S.Martin says:

    I’m not sure that one CAN burnout when one does something they like. I have suffered burnout before and did so because I was always busy fitting other people’s priorities into my schedule. So it really wasn’t my schedule, but their scheduling of my time.
    Another sure-fire way to make sure that the energies are replenished is to make sure that one does “a good deed” for someone else on a daily basis. It nourishes the soul as no other task can. Even just helping a senior get their groceries to their car.
    I wish you joy and fulfillment in your quest and never lose your wonderlust. It’s magic. Oh yeah, THANKS for sharing all of this.

  • Nicole says:

    For me, office work was like entering the fiery pits of hell everyday.

    You’re so cool, Chris – can’t wait to have you back in NY.

  • Donna Kazo says:

    Chris, this is so timely for me. I am now living a life I in which I barely recognize myself, following the “advice” of others but needing to follow my own well-gifted path if I am ever to get out of this long-term crisis mode. THANK YOU for the guidance and wisdom! Safe travels to you!

  • Etsuko says:

    I was in LA that day but at different timing! I was on my way to San Jose very early in the morning (like 7:30am) where I had my first talk about Redirecting Children’s Behavior (parenting course I teach) in front of 70 plus people. I got up at 4:00am to catch an early flight. That day was just like what you’ve described – I was exhausted when I went to bed past midnight, but I was really happy. I have given my day job notice that I’ll be leaving, to pursue this path, and that day I got to see the glimpse of what might be possible for me. It was too bad that I missed the tweetup, but I am sure there will be another one in future.

    Looking forward to reading more about your trip!

  • Andi says:

    “All things considered, I’d rather regret something I did than regret something I wanted to do but was restrained by fear or insecurity from going for it. In other words, I want a full life. I don’t want to miss out on anything. There will always be time to sleep later.”

    I seriously think about getting something similar to what you said above tattooed on my forehead, haha. I repeat this message over and over to those who question my life of traveling, exploring, and experiencing. I think life is too special and too short to live it ordinarily. I want more and I expect more. I’m so happy that there are others out there like me and I’m even happier that your messages reach a mass of people.

    I hope you have an extraordinary time in Bhutan. I can’t wait to get there myself some day.

    PS The best way to prevent burnout is by getting regular acupuncture sessions! Promise it works. 🙂

  • Aaron Wulf says:

    Another great post, Chris, about making us think about what’s important to us. I wrote down those “questions to ask” and have taped them to my computer screen.

    They say people, in general, are either builders or destroyers in life. You’re definitely a “builder”. Thanks for being such a motivation!

  • Working Rachel says:

    Thanks for this post–you got me off my butt yesterday morning to exercise instead of continuing to surf the Internet.

  • Dave says:

    As a fellow runner, I congratulate your feat (and your feet for finishing). Great job!

    I feel the same as you. When I am exhausted at the end of the day from accomplishing things, I sleep well. When I am exhausted from accomplishing nothing, I sleep uneasy.

    Great post…well wishes overseas.

  • Hmm, I agree with all the energy around doing what you believe in, not getting bored, etc. But not so sure about the inference that we need to be constantly moving to achieve that. I’ve led your lifestyle and loved it, and now have shifted to a deliberately slow, thorough life of a farmer/stay-at-home-dad/writer and equally love and grow through it.

    Life doesn’t have to be an extreme sport to be fully lived; just lived fully.

  • Peter Mis says:

    Chris,

    Congrats on an awesome week! I can feel your enthusiasm in the words you’ve written. Honestly, it’s infectious!

    How cool would it be if everyone was able to get to the point where you’re at?

    Thanks for the inspiration! Enjoy the trip!

    Peter

  • Soniya says:

    Your life is an inspiration, you seem to do most of the things I have always wanted to do, but the difference being you actually made it. Your living a life i have always wanted.
    Whenever i have doubts, I read one of your articles. It always boosts my morale.

  • Lou says:

    I have read a lot of stories, tips, quotes about life and living it to the fullest and this one stands out. Others say that one of the hardest questions in life is about “life” itself and how to have it to the full but if we think of it deeply it will only come down to one thing “choice”. Living life to the fullest is a choice. We live the way we want it if we chose to. Some of us are just complicating life. Great post. More power to you.

  • Jason Blohm says:

    Every post that I read of yours inspires and motivates me to keep digging to find out who I truly am. They are a great source of inpiration and perspective. Thank you for your words. I wish you continued success with AONC.

    “One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it in your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”

    Emerson

  • Mike Choi says:

    You inspire me to fill my life with memories that will last a long time versus materialistic goods that will fade over time. Surely, it is exhausting always on the move meeting people and doing stuff, but its just that keeps me going to fill my life with memories. Keep posting those stories.

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