The Road to Extraordinary

It's paved with problems.

The first is that it takes a long time and a lot of hard work. Call it the 10,000-hour rule, the ten-year rule, whatever. We can't expect to become groundbreaking creative successes overnight.

Ray Bradbury:

The first year I made nothing, the second year I made nothing, the third year I made 10 dollars, the fourth year I made 40 dollars. I remember these. I got these indelibly stamped in there. The fifth year I made 80. The sixth year I made 200. The seventh year I made 800. Eighth year, 1,200. Ninth year, 2,000. Tenth year, 4,000. Eleventh year, 8,000...

Stephen King:

When I got my rejection slip… I pounded a nail into the wall above the Webcor [phonograph]… and poked [the rejection slip] onto to the nail… By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing. By the time I was sixteen I’d begun to get rejection slips with handwritten notes a little more encouraging.

Ten years later, he sold his first novel.

A long time and a lot of hard work, to say nothing of talent or actual skill.

In my style of martial arts, a fifth degree black belt is considered a Master. I've been a fourth degree for two years. Generally speaking, the number of degrees equates to the minimum number of years before you can be promoted. E.g., first to second degree takes two years, second to third takes three years, and so on.

But the jump from fourth to fifth degree is different. You can't just put in the time and make the cut. To be considered a Master, one must demonstrate mastery in every area—not just katas and combinations, but animal techniques, club techniques, knife and gun defense, chin na, grappling, and more. And mastery isn't a quantifiable thing; it's not how many leopard techniques you know, but how you move when you execute them. This means a martial artist can spend a long time at fourth degree. Being promoted to Master is arguably more difficult than achieving the black belt itself.

To attain such expertise, to become extraordinary, one must work very hard for a very long time and become very good.

Fine. That makes sense. If being extraordinary was easy, everyone would do it.

But there is a prerequisite question that must be answered before we can start putting in our 10,000 hours: What do I want to be extraordinary at?

This question leads to the second problem, which is the paradox of choice.

To determine at which profession we wish to excel, we consult our various identities. For me: English professor, yoga teacher, martial arts instructor, bass player, writer. For you: Crossfit trainer, accountant, parent, student affairs professional, recreation director, painter, and so on. We are privileged to be such eclectic individuals, but we are also paralyzed by the diversity of our passions and interests.

I feel that if I want to be the greatest writer I can possibly be, if I want to make a living as a writer, I need to immerse myself completely in my craft. I need to write every day. I need to publish constantly. I need to read other writers. I need to hire an editor. I need to hustle. I need to eat, sleep, and breathe writing. I need to dedicate myself to nothing else for years. And then—maybe—one day, I'll make ten dollars.

I feel that if I want to be the greatest bass player I can possibly be, if I want to make a living as a musician, I need to immerse myself completely in my craft. I need to play every day. I need to seek out other musicians to play with. I need to learn how to read music. I need to write and record songs and put them out there for people to hear. I need to hustle. I need to eat, sleep, and breathe music. I need to dedicate myself to nothing else for years. And then—maybe—one day, I'll make ten dollars.

The problem is that I fear having to give up other aspects of my identity in the hopes of becoming extraordinary at one of them. I love being a bass player just as much as I love writing, and I love doing yoga just as much as I love doing martial arts. There isn't one that I'm willing to give up all the others for.

Yes, of course no one (besides me) is saying I have to give everything else up. Successful extraordinary people have interests other than what they're known for. But when you're trying to break into an industry, when you're on mile one of that 10,000-mile road, I don't see how you can get away with not dedicating yourself almost entirely to your craft.

Beyond this inner conflict lies a third problem, one of practicality: how can I dedicate myself to my art and still afford to eat? No one is going to pay me to be a writer who's trying really hard. No one is going to pay me to be a bass player sitting in the woodshed.

So we get crumby part-time jobs, and if we're lucky, their soul-crushing nature drives us even further to power through that long road to extraordinary. Or, they sap our strength to the point where the dream seems even more impossible.

When you're in college, your full-time job is to be a college student. Your job is to go to class, to learn, to absorb, to meet people, to figure out who you are and what you want to do with rest of your life. This is why college is so great. No one expects anything of you other than that you do what a college student is supposed to do: explore.

Some college students are lucky in that they go to school to get a degree in a certain field, which grants them a job, and they set off on a career. I think mainly of business majors. They get a degree in marketing or accounting or business administration, and they get hired. An entry-level accountant gets paid while they learn how to be a next-level accountant. They achieve a respectable level of success for their age, which allows them to live comfortably, going to work during the day, and using nights and weekends to pursue hobbies, interests, and relationships.

Sometimes, I'm envious.

Now, maybe those people genuinely love marketing, or accounting, or business administration. Maybe there are people out there who eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff. I'm sure there is someone out there who is dedicating himself to being an extraordinary accountant, to making it his life's work.

But for those of us in the arts or creative fields, the road to extraordinary is not so smooth. For those of us who want our creative interests and financial living to be one in the same, we must figure out how to do it on our own. We must ask, "What am I going to love doing every day for the rest of my life that other people will pay me to do?" And if and when we can answer that enormous question, we must ask, "How am I going to survive while I put in the seemingly insane amount of time and effort creating that extraordinary life requires?"

The Next Me

Since I got my new job, I've been thinking a lot about the future and what it may have in store. There's no way to really know, but picturing what your life might be like in six months or a year can be pretty exciting. (Keeping expectations in check, of course.)

I finished my grad school coursework in May of last year. The fifteen months I spent working (and not working) on my thesis were relaxing, frightening, and uncertain all at the same time. Even though I wasn't taking any classes, I still felt tethered to academia via my thesis, which caused me to feel unmotivated about finding a job, relocating, or whatever the next step was supposed to be.

Now that this wandering phase has reached its conclusion, and I'm on the brink of the next era, I'm trying to imagine what it's all going to look like in full effect. Early twenties Andrew was one version, and now it's time for an upgrade.

Who am I going to be next?

Fortunately, I like everything I see. In the next year, I'm going to be:

  • An English teacher
  • A martial arts instructor
  • A yoga teacher in training
  • A writer
  • A podcaster
  • A bass player

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that these are all things I adore. I can now visualize a future where I make a living doing things I love. Up to this point, it's just been "karate instructor", but in a few weeks, it'll also be "English teacher". After I complete the training (it's a 200-hour program), I'll be able to make a little side income teaching yoga. I will continue to write QLE and explore new avenues for making the site even more useful. I will continue to record podcasts that are enjoyable and/or helpful. And I will continue to play bass with my excellent bandmates, and maybe we'll pick up some paying gigs down the road.

Not bad at all.

Having a clearer vision of my future feels good; it's a relief, no doubt about it. But I can't completely regret the fifteen months I spent wandering and thinking as I wrote (and didn't write) my thesis. If I had done something differently during that time, it may have lead me down a different path, one without so many of the things I love to do.

While those fifteen months were filled with a great deal of fear, I kept reminding myself that I wasn't going to die.

Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time doing what looks like nothing to figure out what the next something is going to be.

As my late grandmother was fond of saying, "Everything will fall into place."


Have a spectacular weekend, everyone.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

How to Be Awesome

Someone I know referred to this site as “a blog about being awesome”.

I think that’s a reasonable statement, but with one important distinction:

This is not a blog about how you have to be like me to be awesome.

This is a blog about how you have to be you to be awesome.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

Five Years Stronger

Sometimes we’ll say something like, “I wish I met you five years from now.”

Perhaps that would have been more convenient, but on the other hand, you wouldn’t be the same person you are now if you met that person in five years.

You are who you are today in part because you met that person when you did. If you hadn’t met them, you wouldn’t have learned from them. Perhaps you wouldn’t have experienced the pain it caused, but you wouldn’t have experienced the joy either.

A person comes into your life whenever the universe sees fit. Maybe they’ll walk alongside you for a day, or a month, or a year. Maybe they’ll walk away for a while. Maybe they’ll come back. Maybe they won’t.

But if they do, you’ll have your history together, whatever it is. And that may make you five years closer to one another.

Five years stronger.

If I met you in five years, things might work out differently…

But we’d miss out on five years of knowing each other.

[Thanks to my sister for pointing this out to me.]

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

The Best Version of Yourself

Despite the awesomeness that is Jerry Maguire, Colin Wright takes issue with the phrase, “You complete me.”:

Even though it’s generally uttered in a complimentary context, the implication is that the person saying it to you was not whole before you came along. […]

In my mind, one should never be incomplete, if one can avoid it. One should be whole by oneself. One should be 1.

And that means, that when two complete people — two people who would be living wonderful lives without each other — are together, the math stays integered and wonderful, but also magically increases in value. Your 1 and their 1 doesn’t equal 2. You end up with 3. Or 7. Or 229.

Why does it work this way? Because if you have a good relationship with someone else — any kind of relationship — you both become better versions of yourselves for having that other person in your life. We’re all 1′s, if we’re self-aware and live our lives to the fullest. If I find someone who adds to my life, who causes me to be a better version of myself, I might become a 4.

I had lunch with my friend Rich today, and after we parted ways, I found myself thinking that he tends to bring out a better version of myself. I don’t know why. Something about our friendship inspires confidence and camaraderie. Invincibility.

I consider myself a fairly self-aware person, and I believe — as I think Colin does — that one shouldn’t rely on anything or anyone for happiness.

After all, my favorite quote is:

You must love yourself before you can love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.

I believe this issue has two components.

The first is to know oneself.

The second is to surround oneself with individuals who are equally self-aware, and who are thus capable of augmenting that version of yourself to a degree that surpasses anything we might achieve on our own.

There are no concrete steps on the path to knowing oneself. I do know that it requires deep introspection and a lot of time and patience. At least it did for me.

To take up Colin’s numerical analogy, 1 might be the highest level of completion an individual can attain without anyone else’s help. And it can be very difficult to become a 1.

Some — perhaps most — people float through life without ever examining themselves, without ever questioning, “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “Why am I this way?” I’m sure ignorance is bliss in their case.

But as Socrates said:

The unexamined life is not worth living.

As we become more self-aware, we present a more complete version of ourselves to others. Present-day Andrew is more complete than the Andrew from two years ago, who was more complete than college Andrew, who was on his way to becoming much more complete than high school Andrew. And tomorrow Andrew will be more complete than today Andrew.

I know more today than I did yesterday.

Provided that we never stop searching for a complete sense of self, every moment that passes brings us a tiny bit closer to realizing who we are.

With that self-awareness comes the ability to offer the most confident and loving version of yourself to others.

This is me, today.

And while it’s nice to imagine two incomplete people becoming complete together, perhaps we are better suited to doing so on our own.

But if I can find someone equally self-aware, and our two fully-realized selves meet and complement each other, I believe a bond can be formed that transcends everyday friendship.

Since today I am the most self-aware I have ever been (until tomorrow, anyway), I want to surround myself with people who can take my 1 and multiply it. I may be a 1 on my own, but a particular friendship or relationship may turn me into a 5 or a 10.

I want to surround myself with people who inspire me to be better. To do things I otherwise would never dream of. To make me unafraid. That’s the barometer by which I gauge my relationships.

Does this person make me a better version of myself?

Most people won’t, and they can be let go. Eliminate the unnecessary.

But once in a while, someone comes along who makes you better.

Meeting these people is rare. So when I encounter one, I cherish that relationship. I sometimes wish I had more of them, but it’s that scarcity that makes them so precious.

This is a meandering and largely nonsensical post. But being out on your own comes with a lot of alone time, and it makes you realize how valuable certain people are in your life. And it makes you realize who you want to keep around.

Become who you really are. Which is amazing.

Then find those who make who you are even better.

And take over the world together.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

The World's Commander

When in the world I lived I was the world’s commander.

It’s weird being in a place you used to — but no longer — call home.

I was on campus yesterday, after completing my courses and full-time internship there a year ago. Back then, even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was comfortable. Safe. I had courses I was doing well in. Professors who liked me and thought I was talented. Students and coworkers who were friends and support systems. And a cubicle, which though I detested it, was always there.

Back then, it was home. I knew what I was doing. Who I was. Whom I could count on. I could walk across campus confident and self-assured.

Now I’m a stranger there. A guest. Walking across campus makes me uneasy. I walk by people who are living a life I used to be a part of, a life that I’m now just passing through. I’m just a guy who still hasn’t finished his stupid thesis.

Part of you longs to get back there, where things made sense, and you were on top of the world even though you didn’t realize it.

But a campus is just a place. You can’t take the buildings and the parking lots and the trees. You can’t take the cubicle.

But you can take with you what matters. You can take the memories and the people. You can preserve the friendships. That way, when you leave campus, you haven’t lost as much as you think.

And you can focus on being the commander of the world you live in now.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

On the Notion That Your Phone Sucks

In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.
Oscar Wilde

Yesterday, Apple announced an onslaught of new laptops, software updates, and general awesomeness at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

Like all WWDC keynotes in recent years, it was a great day to be an Apple fan. When the company releases new products, its not only a chance to drool with excitement and start contemplating selling your organs. It’s also a reminder of why we in the Apple community stand so firmly behind the company.

Apple perpetuates what we believe in: simplicity, elegance, and sophistication.

But it’s not for everybody. Nothing is.

Try as I might, I couldn’t help but encounter the usual Internet skepticism and criticism about Apple’s announcements — people who scoffed and rolled their eyes while promoting their own obviously superior brands and devices.

There was a time when I would have taken their criticism personally. Apple is doing what I believe in, and therefore, when you insult Apple, and you insult me. We could have a lengthy discussion about how and why a company engenders such emotional attachment, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I’ve learned not to waste my energy trying to disprove someone’s opinion.

As long as they believe blue is red, you can’t have a rational conversation about the color of the sky.
Patrick Rhone

If you believe your phone is better than mine, that’s OK.

If I believe my computer is better than yours, that’s OK.

But trying to convince the other person that their opinion is wrong is futile.

And why bother?

What do you have to gain from telling me that my phone is stupid? What do I have to gain from letting you know your computer sucks?


When we feel strongly about a thing or idea, we attach ourselves to it. It becomes a part of our identity. To have someone bash your thing is to have them bash you as a person.

But it’s not worth preserving that attachment. Someone will always disagree with you, and so the more attached you are to your idea, the more likely you are to have your inner peace disturbed by a willful dissenter.

Instead, be content to let the other person think whatever it is they think. Chances are their way of thinking makes them happy. Why rob them of that happiness?

Let go.

It’s pointless to defend a personal preference. It’s like trying to make an intelligent case for your favorite color.
Merlin Mann

If you don’t like my phone, don’t buy it. I won’t buy your computer.

And we’ll all be OK. Trust me.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

A Superhero Without Powers

Colin Wright:

The thing I’ve always wondered about Car Guy is this: when he’s not with his car, who is he? He’s invested everything of himself into a thing, so what’s left when that thing isn’t around?

Do not attach your identity to anything other than love and knowledge of yourself.

Have an exceptional weekend!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

How to Craft a Musical Time Capsule

I’m a huge fan of albums. One of the hallmarks of my favorite bands is that they’re all capable of delivering a cohesive, album-oriented listening experience.

Albums like Before These Crowded Streets, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Mantis, Moving Pictures, Animals, Kind of Blue, When I Pretend to Fall… The list goes on and on. These are records that never require you to hit the Skip button. Each song contributes to a beautiful tapestry of sound.

However, now and again I’ll fall in love with a song without hearing the rest of the record right away. Maybe through a friend’s recommendation; maybe a cover by one of my favorite musicians; maybe through the vast expanse of the interwebs.

After a while, I’ll end up with a collection of arbitrary songs with no apparent connection other than the fact that I happened to discover them all around the same time. This phenomenon has been happening to me ever since I discovered what music was, and so I came up with a solution.

After I’ve collected a handful of new music discoveries, I make a playlist and give it a current chronological label, i.e. “Fall 2010 Semester”, or “Summer 2011”, or “25th Birthday”.

This playlist serves two purposes:

The first is practical. Hunting for each song individually is a pain, so a playlist allows me to enjoy an album’s worth of new, unrelated music all at once. This, of course, is the point of a playlist.

The second purpose is more metaphysical. By labeling the playlist chronologically, it acts as a musical time capsule. Years from now, when I go back and listen to it, the songs transport me back to that time in my life. All of the sensory memories — joyriding on the highway, crying in the rain, sighing as the sun goes down — come flooding back in glorious waves of musical nostalgia. It’s a great way to remember who you were and what you were feeling back then.

Naturally, I’m not the first person to invent the time capsule playlist, but I thought it was worth sharing. Revisiting my old playlists always gives me a cathartic sense of comfort and peace, as well as an appreciation from how far I’ve come since then. I recommend it.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

An Alternative to More

Seth Godin:

If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you've got...

then you've handed control over your happiness to the gatekeepers, built a system that doesn't scale and prevented yourself from the brave work that leads to a quantum leap.

This article is one of my favorites, and it's something that resonates with me as I try to transition from full-time student to someone who works for a living.

Attaching your happiness to the notion of "more" is dangerous. There will always be more, and so you're attaching your happiness to something that's ultimately unattainable. Subsequently, happiness itself becomes unattainable.

There are ways to combat this attachment to more, and it's something I focus on here and in life. Minimalism is one way. To be able to identify what is enough, and then to be happy with it, is a valuable skill that must be constantly practiced.

Perspective is another. To realize what is and what is not important, and to be able to recognize who and what deserves your time.

Inner peace is another. To be so aware of who you are, and to love that person so unconditionally, that you have no fears, worries, wants, or desires, and you are content with You.


Their rules, their increments, and you are always on a treadmill, unhappy today, imagining that the answer lies just over the next hill...

All the data shows us that the people on that hill are just as frustrated as the people on your hill.

When I peer into the box that society wants me to crawl into, this is all I see. A smothering, unsatisfying existence, where happiness is always a little further ahead and just out of reach. The thought of living in that box makes me uneasy.

Luckily, there's hope:

An alternative is to be happy wherever you are, with whatever you've got, but always hungry for the thrill of creating art, of being missed if you're gone and most of all, doing important work.

There is an alternative. I know there is an alternative because there are people living the alternative.

Fortunately, the thrill of creating art and doing important work are what help me be happy where I am. Unfortunately, I've yet to determine how to make a living while doing it.

Richard J. Anderson had a great post on this topic a few weeks ago:

I like technology, writing, music, art, and variety. I like having clearly defined goals I can check off a list when they’re done. I like knowing that what’s done really is done, and I don’t have to fix it unless I made a mistake. Where do any of these things intersect, and do they intersect in a place that also provides enough money to live on while I focus on what truly matters to me?

These are the questions I'm asking myself, too. I love to read and write. How can I make a living doing these things?

I'm not sure yet.

But, the answer is out there, and I have faith that it will reveal itself.

The trick is to not give up on looking for it.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

The Beauty of Being Wrong

The fact that I’m doing yoga at 7 AM every morning still blows my mind.

It’s been two weeks since I became an early riser, and I love it just as much as I did on day one. The quiet solitude of the morning, the sense of having so much more time, the increased exposure to sunlight… All so wonderful.

But, for all its awesomeness, this change has created something of a splinter in the back of my mind.

The Stubborn Night Owl

You see, for years I was convinced of my own superiority as a night owl. It appealed to my introverted nature, and I liked the rebelliousness of staying up and sleeping late. I associated early rising with convention. Getting up at 8 AM, driving to a cubicle, sitting there all day, and then driving home exhausted and horrified at having to do it all over again tomorrow — it seemed like no way I’d ever want to live. If it works for you great, but I knew it wasn’t for me.

It still isn’t, at least when it comes to the sitting-in-a-cubicle-all day part. But fortunately, I’ve avoided — by both choice and design — that sort of existence.

Instead, I get up with the sun, practice yoga, make tea, read, and then write and make things. It’s a routine with which I’ve quickly become obsessed.

What’s given me pause, though, is the fact that I was so wrong about night owlism. Actually, no; I wasn’t wrong about night owlism so much as I was wrong about being an early riser.

I still think being a night owl is great, and people who prefer that lifestyle should continue to live it as long as it helps them grow and do what they want to do.

Unfortunately, staying up late and sleeping in every morning was paralyzing me. My creativity and productivity stagnated. I was stuck in an incredibly depressing rut, and the only way out was to make a drastic life change: to start getting up early.

I see now just how wonderful being an early riser can be. It’s not painful at all — provided you’re getting your required amount of sleep — and it opens up a whole new world you may have forgotten existed. I certainly did. It truly is life-changing.

Of course, one could easily reverse my story and get the same benefits. Someone who is forced to rise early every morning and go to a job they hate and come home exhausted could, in theory, quit, start their own business, and sleep until mid-morning before doing the work they love all day and late into the night.

It works both ways, and I make no claims that one is better than the other. The best one is the one that works for you.

But, back to my splinter.

What Do I Know?

The feeling I’m experiencing now is that I was wrong.

Wrong in the sense of thinking one way was better than the other, and wrong in thinking I could never become an early riser. Ever. I never wanted to, never thought it would be good for me, never even entertained the idea.

I was a proud night owl. Stubbornly proud.

And yet, here I am.

And so I find myself thinking, “If I was wrong about that, I might be wrong about other things too. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Maybe minimalism isn’t healthy?

Maybe politics are important?

Maybe sports do have value?

Maybe being an introvert isn’t better?

These are scary thoughts, because my identity is ingrained in these possibly incorrect notions. If I’m wrong about them, then part of my identity is lost and/or needs to be rebuilt.

Being wrong is scary.

But, like anything, the solution lies in perspective.

First off, people grow and change. This is for the better. I might be telling my kids someday, when they’re groaning and hiding under the covers at 10 o’clock in the morning, how I used to love to sleep in when I was younger, until it stopped working for me. And that’s the thing:

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. If it’s not, change it.

Minimalism works for me. Being apathetic about sports works for me. These things, at the very least, do me no harm.

I thought being a night owl was working for me, and for a long time, it was. But, then it stopped. When my life changed — when theses and job hunts and apartments and writing and responsibilities became the focus — I needed to change too. Staying up late was not helping me write my thesis or become any more of an adult. I was stuck. I wasn’t growing.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of staying up late. But, I was wrong to think I could keep doing it and still get to where I wanted to be. I couldn’t. So, I had to reevaluate and change my habits.

Not a Thing

There’s a deeper aspect to being wrong as well, one that I wrote about long ago. It’s the know-nothing principle.

The know-nothing principle is a solution to the fear of being wrong. The fear of being wrong grows out of being so attached to your ideas that you become unreceptive to new information, which might contradict or disprove your ideas.

“I am a night owl, and it works for me” was my idea. I knew night owlism was better. I shunned the notion of early rising out of fear that it might in fact be superior to my idea. I did not assume the know-nothing principle when it came to sleep schedules. As such, I was unable to see the benefits of an idea different from my own, and in turn it took me a long time to realize that my stubborn adherence to my own idea was causing me to stagnate.

It was only when I stopped being closed off, when I became open to the idea of early rising that I was able to adopt it and change for the better.

By being open to alternative ideas, by thinking of them not as wrong, but merely as different, and by being willing to try them, we free ourselves from being prisoners of our own ways of thinking.

And so, this experience of being “wrong” does not fill me with the fear that I might be wrong about everything. Rather, being wrong is humbling. It’s a reminder that I know nothing. I had forgotten that, and so I had become attached to my ideas. And of course, I was hurt when life reminded me that my idea wasn’t the only way.

The past two weeks have reminded me of the importance of an open mind. An open mind frees you from the fear of being wrong. You don’t have to cling to one idea or another, and you don’t have to jump to defend it from anyone who thinks differently than you.

As Socrates said:

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.

I thought I knew something about sleep schedules. But, it turns out I don’t know the first thing about them. And that makes me smile.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

That Week I Changed My Life

On the evening of March 31, I took the long way home — as I do — and decided that it was time to make a drastic, life-changing decision.

What lead me to this point?

Thesis Bound

Lately, I’ve been struggling with remembering who I am, which in large part has been a side effect of my inability to finish my thesis.

Not having my thesis done was paralyzing me. I felt guilty about not having it done, and I also felt unable to concentrate on anything else, like job hunts, apartment searches, important work, etc.

I could not move forward until my thesis was finished.

A thesis is like an anchor, weighing you down and serving as your one final — but incredibly strong — tie to academia. It’s the last remaining bond between student life and the real world.

In some ways, it’s comforting. You’re still a student. The full pressures of adulthood do not yet apply to you. But, it’s debilitating for the same reasons. You’re still a student. All you have to show for it is a couple of degrees, a lack of direction, and no career.

My Fault

My inability to finish my thesis had been due to a lack of discipline. I work in the evenings, and I’m a night owl. I love to stay up late and sleep in.

When it comes to getting out of bed in the morning, a thesis is perhaps the least effective motivator of all time.

I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning and sleep until lunchtime, only to spend another hour in bed catching up on the day’s news on my iPhone. If I was lucky I’d find the strength to exercise in some fashion before having lunch and going to work in the afternoon.

Sounds luxurious, but it sucked.

I was in a rut, paralyzed by a routine of ignorance and complacency, ignoring who I wanted to be and just waiting for things to get better. I would fantasize about how awesome my life was going to be, and then I’d wait for it to happen.

Until I realized waiting doesn’t work.

Survey Says

Several stars aligned that last weekend in March, which helped me to reverse my downward spiral.

The first was that my yoga studio was about to start a 30-day challenge for the month of April. Hot yoga, Monday–Friday, 7–8 AM; your choice of weekend classes.

I had no intention of doing the challenge. I wanted to, but I told myself I couldn’t do it.

I work too late. I don’t know how to go to bed early. I’m literally miserable in the morning. I’m a stubbornly proud night owl. Let the cheery morning people do it.

However, that weekend I had to work my monthly Saturday shift, which consisted of teaching eight three- and four-year old boys how to do karate at 8:30 in the morning. So, I was up early. Not by choice, but I was up early.

On Sunday, I decided to go to yoga at 9 AM because my schedule had changed, and I was no longer able to attend my Thursday night class. I like to practice yoga at least twice a week, so I went to bed at a decent hour Saturday night, and made it to yoga the next morning. Up early again, this time by choice.

I’d risen early two days in a row, which is a rare thing.

Which brings us back to my Sunday night drive.


As I cruised along my familiar route, I listened to no music, no podcasts. I thought long and hard about the challenge, my thesis, and my life. And then I realized…

This is the only way you’re going to get your thesis done.

This is the only way to free yourself.

This is the only way to move forward.

That was nine days ago.

Since that night, I’ve woken up at 6:25 AM. Every morning.

I’ve done yoga from 7–8 AM. Every morning.

I’ve come home, enjoyed a cold shower, gotten dressed, made tea, and read. Every morning.

I’ve been at the library when it opens, worked on my thesis, and written for three hours. Every morning.

This routine has turned my life upside for the better.

When I say it was a life-changing week, I don’t mean to be hyperbolic. My productivity, mood, and sense of self-worth have increased ten-fold. I’ve been a proud night owl for as long as I can remember, and here I am getting up with the sun every day. I never thought it could happen, and I never thought it would matter.

It did, and it does.

I love it.

Freedom Found at Dawn

When my alarm goes off in the morning, it’s cool, calm, and quiet. There’s a sense of solitude, which is what I crave and thrive on.

When I practice yoga at 7 AM, I take care of my body. I get my exercise out of the way, first thing, and I feel energized for the rest of the day. If I want to do more exercise later, great. If not, it’s no big deal.

I get home, and it’s still only 8 AM. The whole day still lies ahead, and I feel like I’ve already gotten so much done. The library doesn’t open until 10 AM, so I take my time. I relax. I enjoy the shower. I shave mindfully instead of in a rush. I have time to make green tea. I sit by the window with my iPad, reading my favorite sites or equally amazing things in Instapaper.

I drive to the library at 10 AM. It’s about a ten-minute drive; just enough to enjoy some music or listen to one of my favorite podcasts. It’s beautiful outside. Springtime. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and infinite, and the clouds are fluffy. The roads are mostly quiet, as the morning rush has ended. It’s been an amazing day, and it’s only 10 AM.

I take my usual cubicle in the library, in the corner by the window. I’m surrounded by books and people in pursuit of knowledge. I power up my Mac and work on my thesis, fifty minutes at a time. I take breaks, stand up, and stretch. It feels good to put my head down and power through the work. I keep adding words and pages. I feel like I’m making it better, and I feel like I’m getting better in the process.

I feel like I’m working toward where I want to be.

Around 1 PM, I stop working on my thesis — even if I want to keep going. I make a note of where to start tomorrow. I preserve the momentum. Then, I write something for this website, which I love to do. I take an idea I’ve been formulating, and allow it to become manifest. It’s a reward for typing about Middle English lyrics for the last three hours. The words seem to come easier, writing about things I love. I finish the draft. It’ll be reread and revised later on before being queued for publication. I feel accomplished.

And it’s only 2 PM.

I go home for lunch, feeling exceptional. Guilt-free. Productive. Healthy. Confident. I can eat mindfully, without rushing. After, I leave for work on time, or work out, or relax, depending on the day. So much has already gotten done; everything else that happens today is just gravy.

Life feels remarkable.

The biggest challenge is going to bed early, because I do work until 9 PM some nights. But, I manage to be in bed around 10 PM. I either read, or treat myself to some Netflix on my iPhone. And I’m excited to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

The first night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 1 AM because I was still so energized from the day, starting with yoga that morning. I thought I would be exhausted all the time, but I’m not. It’s bizarre to say, but sleep feels like such a small part of my day. I used to stay up until three, four, five in the morning, messing around on the computer, playing on my iPad in bed. I can’t work on my thesis at home because it’s too comfortable. Too many distractions. Even writing for QLE was a challenge, especially if starting something from scratch. Then I’d sleep until I woke up, and lie in bed until I had to get up. And somehow, I’d still be tired.

Now, I just sleep to rest. To recharge for the next day. Sleep is a way of fast-forwarding to tomorrow and all the joys it’s sure to hold.

I can’t stress enough how important this change has been for me. I know it’s only been a short time since I’ve made the transition, and I’m still mindful of it every day. I don’t want to lose this routine or take it for granted. It will take many more of these days before it becomes habit.

I never thought I’d say it, but becoming an early riser is the best change I’ve made for myself this year. While I love being a night owl, it wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t helping me grow or move forward. But now, it’s the exact opposite. Everything’s changed. I was stuck, and now I’m moving forward.

I was paralyzed, and now I’m free.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

On Forgetting Who You Are

I wrote yesterday about having different identities and struggling to decide which one deserves your time and attention.

There’s a canonical Merlin quote from Back to Work S1E01 about procrastination. It goes like this:

Procrastination is an effect, not a cause. [The cause is] when you temporarily forget who you are, or who you want to be. It’s when you forget what you’re supposed to be paying attention to, and when you lose confidence about what your options are for doing something about it.

Sometimes, our individual identities are so ingrained in our consciousness that we forget they need to be actively maintained. When I pig out on crap, it’s because I’ve momentarily forgotten that I want to be in badass paleolithic shape. When I don’t put some kind of work into this site on a given day, it’s because I’ve forgotten that I want to be a writer.

If I want to write for a living, then I need to consciously dedicate my time and attention every day to making that happen. I can’t just throw up a new blog post and forget about it. Achieving your dreams is not a passive pursuit. You can’t wait for someone to hand it to you. It takes diligent, consistent hard work, and it might take a long time.

I know who I want to be. I have visions of my not-so-distant-future life, and it’s pretty great. And, it’s totally achievable. But, getting there requires focus. It’s not going to happen automatically if I just wait long enough.

We need to take control of our days. We need to ask ourselves each morning, “What can I do today that’s going to help me get to where I want to be?” And then do it. At the end of the day, we’ll be that much closer to whatever it is we want.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below. Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

If I Were a Pie Chart...

I'm pretty sure I have multiple personality disorder.

Not in a clinical way, but in a "Who the hell am I?" sort of way.

If you were to graphically represent Andrew Marvin in a pie chart, it might look something like this:

Obviously there's more to me than those seven labels, but those are the major identities that come to mind. All of them contribute to and define my larger identity: Andrew Marvin, the Person.

I love all of my sub-identities, and I want to get better and be great at all of them. The problem is that, generally speaking, I can't be all of them at once. Regrettably, I can't play my bass while I'm teaching a karate class. I can't write while I'm fiddling with TextExpander snippets. I can't work on omitting needless things while I'm doing research about Middle English lyric poetry. Alas.

I feel like I could conceivably dedicate my entire being to just one of those identities. For example, I could decide that I'm going to dedicate my entire life to being a martial artist. I could drive to the dojo and work out for three hours every morning, and then I could teach classes every night. That could be Andrew Marvin in his entirety. And I would probably get really great at being a martial artist.

But, if I did choose to do that, then all of my other identities would atrophy. I wouldn't get to write. I wouldn't get to play music. I wouldn't get to read about Apple and download new text editors. All of these are things I love to do. How can I willingly give them up?

Do I want to be great at one thing, or do I want to be pretty good at seven things?

Perhaps being able to say, "I am a [blank]" is largely dependent on your job. "I am a construction worker." "I am a lawyer." "I am a student."

Of course, I don't mean to suggest that having a job means you have no other hobbies or skills. An accountant might be an accountant from 9–5, but she undoubtedly has other interests beyond that. Still, an accountant can confidently say, "I am an accountant" because, at the very least, that's what she gets paid to do for eight hours a day. She might also be a mom, cyclist, and underwater basket weaver. But, accounting pays the bills, so maybe that's how she identifies herself.

But what about when you don't have income attached to any of your identities? Then how do you decide which one gets your time and attention? I guess the one that you like the most? The one that has the greatest likelihood of eventually leading to income? Some balance of the two?

The reason for this nonsensical article is that I sometimes have trouble deciding what to do with myself. That is, who I want to be today. Take yesterday, for instance. A beautiful 75 degree day.

It's gorgeous out; I should do sprints.

It's my day off; I should work on my thesis.

I need an apartment; I should look for a big boy job.

I don't want a big boy job; I should work on QLE.

So many shoulds, so little time.

What am I doing? Who the hell am I?

Which version of me do I want to be today?

Some days, I don't know.

More tomorrow.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

25 Things I've Learned in 25 Years

I turn 25 today.

Since this is only going to happen once, I decided to compile a list of things I’ve learned in the past quarter of a century.

So, without further ado…

  1. There are only three rules: self-discipline, self-control, and respect.

  2. I tend to be least interested in things that (and people who) lack depth.

  3. I feel better having written.

  4. “If you sit on, sleep on, stare at, or touch something for more than an hour a day, spend whatever it takes to get the best.”

  5. Manage your expectations. Seriously.

  6. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  7. Eliminate unnecessary things. This includes people and thoughts.

  8. Be free of attachments. Do not allow your happiness to be dependent on anything other than love for yourself.

  9. “Everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you.”

  10. Patience. Breathe.

  11. The Universe is incomprehensibly big. We are tiny infinitesimal specks on a minuscule little planet in a solar system that’s just a small part of one of thousands of galaxies and stars and space. This is liberating. We are wonderfully irrelevant.

  12. Be mindful. Self-awareness is invaluable.

  13. You can’t help someone until they want to be helped.

  14. Always ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Chances are it’s not that bad, and chances are the damage won’t be permanent. Don’t worry; they can’t eat you. You’re not going to die.

  15. Introverts do it better.

  16. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

  17. The amount of drama in your life is inversely proportional to your ability to handle that drama.

  18. In any situation, you can either be the water, or you can be the rock.

  19. “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

  20. Pain heals with time, and time never stops moving. Take comfort in knowing the worst is right now. Every second, minute, hour, and day that goes by brings you a tiny bit closer to being OK. It’s literally only a matter of time.

  21. This planet is run by human beings. We are responsible for everything that goes on here. Subsequently, everything that disturbs our happiness is a manmade construction. Money is a made-up thing, as is working from 9–5, or getting a college degree. We cannot allow ourselves to be troubled by things that are only important because the human race decided they were important. The Universe probably thinks we’re silly.

  22. Negative emotions do not exist unless we create them. Hatred exists because we allow it to exist. Do not be a source for negativity by projecting negative energy out into the universe. Let go.

  23. You cannot control 95% of the things that happen to you. The only thing you can control is your mind and how it deals with those things. Perspective is everything.

  24. “You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”

  25. All is one, and all is well.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

A Prisoner of the Past

Crave translates into slave
John Roderick

When we lose something wonderful, we experience a natural desire to get that thing back — to get back to the way things were.

This desire arises out of attachment to that thing. When we lose something wonderful, we lose a part of ourselves. Part of our identity was defined by that thing, and so part of our identity must be rebuilt.

Rebuilding can be exceptionally difficult and painful, especially when we convince ourselves that the only way to rebuild is to recover the thing that was lost.

Unfortunately, the loss of the thing is often permanent, which only augments our desire to recover it. The permanence of the loss is directly proportional to our desire to get the thing back. When someone dies, we really wish we could see them again. When someone goes away for a weekend, it’s not a big deal because we know they’ll be back in no time.

The more we allow ourselves to believe that recovering the lost thing is possible, the longer it takes to rebuild, and the longer it takes to be whole again.

Too often, getting back to the thing is impossible. When that is the case, the only way to rebuild is to release our attachment to the thing. Cherish the thing, certainly, but do not try to get back to it. That is, do not allow your happiness and your identity to be dependent on the recovery of a thing that is lost forever. Preserve the memory of the thing, but do not allow yourself to become enslaved by the notion that you can go back to the way things were.

We cannot move forward if we insist on remaining a prisoner of the past. We cannot rebuild by rewinding, only by looking — and moving — ahead.

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

The Essential Lesson About Expectations

Expectation is the root of all heartache.
William Shakespeare

My dad has always taught me the importance of managing expectations. Allowing them to get out of control almost guarantees disappointment, while keeping them low increases the chances of being pleasantly surprised.

But what exactly is an expectation?

An expectation is an attachment to an outcome.

Let’s say you get a tip from a friend about a job he or she thinks you would be perfect for. They tell you all about it and encourage you to apply. They’ll put in a good word for you. It sounds great. The pay would be better. It would be a field you’re interested in. You could use the money to get out of your crappy apartment and pay down some of your student loans. Things would get better. All in all, it sounds like a big upgrade. It’s going to be awesome.

Until you don’t get the job.

This thought process is indicative of out-of-control expectations. When you allow yourself to get overly excited about something that is not yet a sure thing, your brain begins to act as if that thing is already true. When the thing doesn’t come true, it can be devastating.

Attachments to outcomes are no less dangerous than attachments to things. Suppose you get a brand new toy, whatever that means for you. A new car, gadget, instrument, doesn’t matter. You love that thing, and it brings you joy. You don’t want to imagine life without that thing. So if — and when — it breaks, you experience pain and loss.

The same can be said of attachments to people. Boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives are wonderful things, but when their bodies are no longer there — either by choice or by death — the pain can be excruciating.

This pain happens because we have attached a part of ourselves to that thing or person. Our identity is in part defined by our relationship to it, him, or her.

“I am the owner of that car.”

“I am John’s girlfriend.”

“I am Jane’s husband.”

When the car or John or Jane are no longer there, that part of our identity disappears with them, and that void hurts. A lot.

Obviously we can’t force ourselves to stop enjoying things or loving people, so the solution lies in establishing one’s identity independent of external entities.

“With or without this thing/person, I am still me.”

When your sense of identity is unwavering, you don’t feel disappointment when you don’t get the job. Rather, you feel content in knowing that you were OK before the job, and you will be OK without the job.

Of course we feel sadness over the loss of loved ones, whatever the reason. Relationships are an essential fiber of our humanity, and losing them hurts like hell. But perspective and identity must be maintained. In the case of the girlfriend: you were OK before her, and you will be OK after her — even if you don’t think you can be.

When someone dies, our pain is corporeal. We ache over being unable to see the person, or hear their voice, or feel their arms around us. But we may take comfort in knowing that they’re still there, even though their body isn’t.

In all of these cases — the lost job, the broken object, the missing person — we were expecting the thing to be there. When it isn’t, our expectations are not met, and we hurt.

We must learn to let go of our expectations of outcomes, things, and people. In doing so, we free ourselves from our attachment to them. This is not to say we should go through life as emotionless robots, but rather that we must know who we are — with and without these things. Our identities must not depend on the presence or ownership of external entities.

We must truly know ourselves so that we may live independently of the things over which we have no control.

Self-control, then, is the key. You have true control over almost nothing and no one in this world. The only thing you can control is your mind and how it deals with what happens to you. Remove expectations, and you remove the chains of attachment.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Why I Write About Music

Quarter-Life Enlightenment is not a music blog, and yet I’ve written about music several times since starting the site last year. I suspect this will not change, and for good reason.

Quarter-Life Enlightenment is about inner peace, and for me, music is a huge source of happiness, comfort, and contentment.

But it wasn’t always. I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical household; no one in my family played an instrument. My discovery of music was actually quite gradual.

The albums I remember growing up with were my dad’s old copies of Queen’s Greatest Hits I & II and Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker’s Greatest Hits. I remember sneaking them up to my room so I could listen on my CD player. I wore out those records, and I still play them regularly.

Perusing my dad’s collection quickly taught me that I enjoyed music, but it wasn’t until later that I began to learn the importance of good music.

In 2002, when I was fifteen years old, I came home to find my dad playing Dave Matthews Band’s Listener Supported through our home entertainment system. I didn’t know who Dave Matthews was, but that DVD knocked me on my ass. I loved the carpeted stage and purple lights. I loved that there was a violin and a saxophone. I loved the dancing and the pretty girls in the audience. And I loved the music. It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before.

I was particularly entranced by a moment in the song “Rapunzel”, when Stefan Lessard, DMB’s then-25-year-old bass player, played an amazing fill during the song’s climactic chorus. He was playing some huge green guitar, and I wanted to be just like him. It was also while watching that concert that I first noticed the bass, when it kicks in on “Rhyme & Reason”. I fell in love with it.

Around the same time, I reached an important milestone in any boy’s life: the moment when he decides he wants to be in a band. In my case, my friend Keith, who had been playing guitar for several years, conveniently told me I should buy a bass and join his band, also known as him and a couple of other guys we knew. My parents, being thrilled at my interest in something other than Game Boy and Super Nintendo, bought me a $200 jewel blue Ibanez and a practice amp for Christmas that year. I haven’t put it down since.

When you’re a kid who’s just picked up an instrument, what you want more than anything is to be able to play along with your favorite songs. And so I set to learning the entire Dave Matthews Band catalog, starting with “What Would You Say” — in retrospect, an excellent place to start. I listened to that song nonstop trying to figure out how to play it. Even when mowing my neighbor’s lawn with my headphones on, I imagined myself rocking out onstage and playing that sultry bass slide right after the guitar break at 2:35.

Say what you will about Dave Matthews Band, but they were the first band I became completely obsessed with, and subsequently, they were the first band that showed me the value of music beyond “Oh, I like that song on the radio.” Many other bands would follow, but Dave Matthews Band was the true genesis of my musical education.

For the past ten years, I’ve been in love with music. It uplifts me, challenges me, and comforts me. It keeps me up at night because I’d rather keep listening than go to sleep. My basses are at once a source of joy and therapy. Rarely does a day go by where I don’t pick one up and play for at least a few minutes. I’m constantly looking out for amazing music I haven’t yet discovered, and when I find some, it always makes my day.

Aldous Huxley said:

Next to silence, that which expresses the inexpressible is music.

That’s exactly why music is such an important part of Quarter-Life Enlightenment. I hope you feel the same way.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

You're Not Going to Die

The problem with being really close to finishing your thesis is that it comes with many increasingly persistent questions:

“What are you going to do now?”

“What jobs have you applied to?”

“Are you aware of how many thousands of dollars in student debt you’re responsible for?”

“How are you going to afford rent?”

“Do you have a plan?”

All of which translate to:

When are you going to hurry up and be the adult the world expects you to be?

Seven years ago, when I declared English as my major, I saw these questions off in the distance, prowling the horizon. I’ll be the first to admit I still don’t know the answers to them. And while that’s a serious cause for concern for what seems like pretty much everyone in my life, it is in the face of these questions that I find myself decidedly unafraid.

And why shouldn’t I be?

I’ve already spent enough time wallowing in self-pity, fear, and doubt over who I am and what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’ve already panicked over my student loans. I’ve already looked at how expensive apartments are. I’ve already seen how few jobs there are, and even fewer that appeal to me. I’ve already imagined life on my own, out there in the dark, scary real world.

And I’ve made peace with all of it.

This is not to say I do not recognize the necessity of income, housing, and food. I can’t live without these things. I don’t even need my two English degrees to tell me that.

I recognize that I cannot sit passively by and expect to be handed a job and an apartment. I recognize that I will need to work hard to achieve these things, and that I am solely responsible for them.

But why make myself sick over it?

I’m not going to die.

There are people far dumber than me (and you) who are doing just fine.

These are the facts.

I do not presume the transition to adulthood will be an easy one. Indeed, it hasn’t been so far. But, I believe the best way to make that transition is with the proper perspective — one that enables you to walk into the unknown calm, collected, and confident.

Even if you have no idea what you want to do…

No matter how many thousands of dollars you owe the government…

Even if you’re not sure who you are…

You’re not going to die.

You will answer these questions in due time.

Always ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen? Chances are it’s not that bad.

I’m sure many will mistake my equanimity for naiveté, laziness, and apathy. This is fine. Most people are more concerned with the lives of others than with their own.

But in truth, beneath my foolish calm is a sense of great excitement. Because I can’t wait to be on my own. To come home to my own apartment. To cook my own food. To start my own career, and to find out what that ends up being. It’s not a question of “Are these things going to happen?” Of course they are; it’s a matter of when.

I’m excited to start my own life. In thirty years, I’ll be telling my kids, “I know it’s scary. But, what’s the worst that could happen? You’re not going to die.”

That’s going to be a good day.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

The QLE Informational Brochure & FAQ

Note: This is a long post. However, I think it's worth your time because it will help you decide whether you should stay or leave and never come back. You can't lose.

The other day, I had dinner with my mom, and we got to talking about my website. (This one.) She loves me, as moms do, so she was interested in what I had been up to, how the site was going, and what it all sort of... meant. So, I talked my way through my vision for the site, what I'm trying to do, who it's for, and several other questions that felt good to answer out loud.

During this conversation, it occurred to me that I haven't really provided you, dear reader, with an in-depth explanation of what's actually going on here. I wrote a post called What Is Inner Peace?, which sheds a little light on things, but I treat the site as an organic endeavor. It might not mean the same thing in three years as it does now. The focus will most likely grow and change as I do.

The Story So Far

I'm pretty proud of what the site has become in its first seven months. It feels like a real thing now. The first six months saw me testing the waters. Would I like blogging every day? Is this worth my time? Can I actually do this? I'm thrilled to answer "yes" to all of the above. It's been a challenge, but I want and am trying to kick things into high gear around here. I'm writing more stuff, pushing the site more than I used to, and starting to introduce myself to other writers, all of whom I admire and respect a great deal. It's slow, but steady, and also really exciting.

2012 is barely a month old, but QLE is already occupying much of my time and attention. I'm writing more than I ever have before — probably even more than I did in college — and it's all stuff I want to write and share with people. The site is taking up more space in my brain. Thinking about QLE is starting to become a habit. I'm thinking of what I want to write next, and even when I'm doing other things, I can feel it in the back of my head somewhere. It feels really good. The site is still young, but I'm beginning to get the sense that I can do this. It's been seven months; why stop now? As long as you don't give up, you can do anything, right? So they say.

I think I'm also starting to look outward a bit more. I'm starting to think about my readers: what you might want to read, and what might help you get through your day. I'm getting a better idea of what I want QLE to mean and do for people — at least, in its current incarnation. When someone visits the site for the first time, they're going to see an article on who knows what, so I want to take a few minute to really dig into what I want this site to be. And what better question to start with than:

What is "Quarter-Life Enlightenment"?

Quarter-Life Enlightenment is the answer to the quarter-life crisis.

What's a "quarter-life crisis"?

A quarter-life crisis is just like a midlife crisis, except it happens in your twenties instead of on your fiftieth birthday. Upon turning fifty, some people — and I mean this is the most compassionate possible way — freak out a little bit. When you turn fifty, your life is probably at least half over! When you realize this, you start second guessing your entire life.

What have I accomplished so far? What do I have to show for myself? There are still so many things I want to do. I'm running out of time. Who am I?! AHHHHH!

To put it bluntly, the ultimate source of the mid-life crisis is (the fear of) death. We realize we've already used up half of our allotted time on Earth, and that's terrifying. No doubt about it.

Now, if you're paying close attention, you may be asking, "But twenty-somethings don't really think about death like that, so how is a quarter-life crisis 'just like a mid-life crisis?'" A fine question befitting an attractive reader like yourself.

The quarter-life crisis is not caused by a fear of death so much as it is driven by a fear of adulthood and The Real World (not the reality television show).

In my experience, the quarter-life crisis tends to come crashing down right after graduating from college. College, of course, is often — and accurately — described as "the best years of your life". Whomever said that about high school should get checked out.

When the blissful bubble of college bursts (two English degrees at work right there), we find ourselves on the doorstep of cold, hard reality facing real world pressures. And there are a lot of them.

"What do you want to do?"

"When are you going to get a job?"

"When are you going to get your own place?"

"When are you going to start paying off the thousands and thousands of dollars you spent on a degree (or two) that so far has only rendered you unemployed and in egregious debt?"

"When are you going to meet the love of your life?"

"When are you going to hurry up and be the adult the world expects you to be?"

I don't know.

The only thing worse than being bombarded with huge life questions is being unable to answer them. And what's more, now you start asking yourself questions:

What have I accomplished so far? A degree like everyone else. What do I have to show for myself? Thousands of dollars in debt. There are so many things I want to do, but I don't know how to do them or where to start. What am I going to do for the rest of my life? Who the hell am I?! AHHHH!

It's rough. Your friends aren't down the hall anymore. Your responsibilities don't fit in a backpack. The job market is as terrifying as everyone said it would be. It's a drastic departure from the best years of your life.

Now, I'm not trying to paint an inescapably bleak picture here. Plenty of people (I'm told) get great jobs right after college and go on to lead perfectly normal existences. But even these twenty-somethings are not without fears and doubts about their future. And, there's an even bigger issue.

You're better than that.

What if you're not content with normal?

What if you don't want to work in a cubicle, or wear a tie, or do the same damn thing in the same damn building for eight hours every single day?

What if you want to find fulfillment elsewhere?

What if you want to be exceptional and lead a life befitting your awesomeness?

Well, then I applaud you, sir or madam. You've probably made things even more challenging for yourself, but I applaud you all the same.

So, what do we do?

We stick together!

No, but seriously. I'm not in a position to help you become an entrepreneur, or travel the globe, or invent something better than Facebook (it's called Twitter, AMIRIGHT) because frankly, I need just as much help as you do. That's why I've repeatedly said that my writing here is advice to myself just as much as it is advise to you. I do not claim to be an expert in your happiness. I am merely here to share what works for me in the hopes that maybe it will work for you too, and vice-versa. We think, we learn, and we work through it.

Now, about that tagline...

"Finding inner peace through simplicity, technology, and other means."

Right. Inner peace is the solution to any crisis. Mine happens to be of the quarter-life variety. To quote my own personal definition of inner peace:

It’s the goal. The ideal state of being. It’s what everyone wants. Inner peace means being perfectly content, mentally, physically, emotionally. You have no fears. No worries. You have no wants, needs, or desires. No stress. No anxiety. No troubles. No fear. You just are. It can perhaps be considered an enlightened state.

I write about how I achieve inner peace so that you can too.

The ways I reach a state of inner peace are numerous and varied:

  • Simplicity, because "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Confucious said that.
  • Technology, because it's a wonderful and amazing thing, and it's better to embrace it than try to avoid it.
  • Perspective, because the only thing we can truly control is our minds and how they deal with what life throws at us.
  • Writing, because I love it, and it's how I learn about myself. It's introspective, therapeutic, and really freaking hard.
  • Other means, because there's always more than one right way.

I could write another thousand words about each of those things, but it's late, and you probably have things to do.

So, what IS Quarter-Life Enlightenment?

It's a way of beating the quarter-life crisis through inner peace and self-discovery. It's about introspection, figuring out who you are, and learning how to deal with life through trial and error. It's about being mindful. It's about making sure you know the answers to those questions on your fiftieth birthday. It's about tweaking your brain so that life isn't so damn stressful and hard all the time. It's about having a healthy outlook on life during good times and crappy times. It's about this quote:

You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.

Quarter-Life Enlightenment is about being who you really are.

If you want to beat the quarter-life crisis; if you want to beat any crisis; if you want to have inner peace; if you want to be calmer, more productive, and happier; if you want to learn how to not be miserable all the time; if you just want some company; I invite you to read Quarter-Life Enlightenment. I would love to have you.

Some final questions:

So, is this site only for quarter-aged people?

Most certainly not. That's the perspective I'm writing from, of course, but anyone who deals with stress and worry is more than welcome to read QLE. That is, any and all members of the human race.

Are you going to change the name of the site when you're not in your twenties anymore?

I do not know.

This whole "enlightenment" thing creeps me out. Is that some weird hippy thing?

No, it's whatever you want it to be. Here's a quick dictionary definition of "enlightened": "having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook". Sounds good to me.

I have feedback or a question.

Awesome! Ping me on Twitter, or send an email to

This has only made me more confused. Can you explain more about ___?

I am so sorry. Yes, absolutely. Get in touch with me, and we'll sort things out.

How'd you come up with this?

That's a story best told in person, but the short version is: I gave a presentation at Southern Connecticut State University about simplicity, and people really seemed to like it. I have two English degrees, and I love to write, so I thought I'd start writing about things I care about and that also seem to help other people.

I'm floored by your writing/website/message/boyish good looks. Are you available to come speak at my school/organization/place of work?

Yes; it would be a genuine honor. I'll be working out more details about this sort of thing later in the year, so in the meantime, get in touch.

Where can I learn more about Andrew Marvin? What's he all about?

I'd start with the About page. If that doesn't completely stultify you, feel free to send me an email.

You're obsessed with The Long Winters. Can you please stop talking about them?

I can't promise anything. Sorry to lose you as a reader. Also, shame on you.

Apple sucks!

That's not a question, but alright.

Has anyone ever actually read all of these?

I can't imagine, no.

What do I get for reading the entire thing?

My sincerest thanks.