I want you to think about life “back in the day”:
Remember those nights where you were supposed to be studying but instead decided to drive to the next state just for your favorite ice cream?
Or when one of your friends excitedly ran in the room saying “do you want to…” and you said “HELL YEAH LET’S GO” before they even get a chance to finish their sentence?
When we’re younger, “spontaneity” is the name of the game. We live for those last minute moments where anything can happen, where there are no plans, no thoughts of “but how will this work,” no regrets.
Now that you’re older, when was the last time you’ve done something completely spontaneous? Something that wasn’t planned, that didn’t fit into your five year plan, that took you outside of your comfort zone…just because.
Last week, I had an opportunity to do something ridiculous, and initially decided against it. I then thought to myself that I had grown too comfortable, complacent, and safe…so I changed my mind last minute and said yes.
It resulted in 24 of the most exciting hours of my life.
Screw It, Let’s Do It
I’m a huge Richard Branson fan.
If you’re not familiar with Richard, he’s the founder of Virgin, a company that does just about everything. He’s also a daredevil and sets off on a moment’s notice to hot air balloon across the Atlantic or base jump from the top of a skyscraper.
Reading his autobiography, Losing My Virginity, had a huge influence on how I’ve looked to live my life. He oftentimes picks the unusual path for difficult decisions, not because it contributes most to the bottom line, but because in his gut it just feels right. Sometimes, he sets off on a crazy adventure just for the story.
In fact, he’s run his life and his business with the mantra “screw it, let’s do it.” When something feels right, he commits to it, and then figures out how to make it work after.
Since reading Richard’s story and really identifying with what he stands for, I started trusting my gut more. And obviously “trust your gut” doesn’t sound nerdy enough, so instead I looked at it like “using the Force.”
Looking back, I realized that I was ALREADY a Jedi, and had used the Force to:
- Pick the college I attended (despite there being ‘better’ choices on paper).
- Change to a job that changed my life, despite it paying HALF of what I was getting paid before.
- When I knew it was time to quit and focus on Nerd Fitness full-time, despite not having made any money yet!
On paper, none of these were the most viable decisions, but something inside me told me that I needed to shake things up, say yes, and then figure out how it would work after.
So then I started thinking of my favorite memories from my travel; the memories with friends that I’ll never forget.
These memories were always made on the days when there was no set plan, or when I said last minute to something that wasn’t initially in the plans.
Did you enjoy your story?
There’s a video called “A Story For Tomorrow” that I try to watch at least once a month.
At the end of the story, two questions are posed: “Is it possible to be happy with this life?” and “Did you enjoy your story?”
This is worth watching. Trust me.
Life is composed of stories and memories. When it comes to our “game over,” it’s not about our high score but rather how much fun we had playing the game.
After all, who cares if we set the high score in a game we didn’t even enjoy playing?
We never remember the time we stayed late at work and missed our kid’s soccer game, the test that we aced but passed up on the best concert ever, or the “no thanks” we gave to a friend because an event that had some uncertainty.
We remember the nights with friends staying up too late, the days we play hookie from work to take our kids out for pizza, and the adventures we embark on when we’re not sure of how they’ll turn out.
I challenge you today to start mixing some spontaneity back into your life. To stop saying no to ‘uncertainty’ and instead say “screw it, let’s do it.” It might not turn out perfectly, but it might also give you a life-changing story and lifelong memory.
If you’ve seen the trailers for “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” I bet many of us can relate:
There’s only one way to find out what could happen…
But Steve, I can’t Just…
I can hear you now. (Seriously my hearing is that good.)
- “But Steve you’re lucky and only 29. I have a wife and kids and _______.”
- “Must be nice to be you. I can’t because _________.”
- I don’t have time or can’t afford to be spontaneous man. Sorry.”
I’ve already covered in a previous post why “Must be nice…” is the worst possible attitude you can have.
Yes, I realize not everybody can hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to attend an event; that’s just ONE example of how to be spontaneous.
It can be as simple as:
- Leaving work at lunch time to come home and build a pillow fort with your kids.
- Surprising your significant other with a picnic.
- Driving to visit a friend you haven’t seen forever, just for the weekend.
These stories are what you get to take with you 50 years from now.
If money is tight, why not plan for spontaneity? I realize that sounds like a paradox, but hear me out. Oftentimes we don’t do something last minute because we can’t justify the expense…so why not create a spontaneity fund?
Hat tip to my yoda Chris Guillebeau for this:
Define your priorities: Determine what’s truly important to you. I’ve chosen to make stories, memories, and personal development a priority (with my Epic Quest of Awesome), so I’ve structured my entire life around those things. It took years of ‘engineering,’ a crazy amount of sacrifice, and more than a few risky moves, but I knew what I wanted and made those things a priority. It might be as simple as “family, friends, and happiness” or as complex as getting into a completely new career. Clearly define what is important to you in your life.
Remember: experiences trump possessions, almost every single time.
Practice selective frugality: Sure it would be nice to buy whatever you want and go wherever you want and do whatever you want whenever you want…but things don’t work that way. So you need to practice selective frugality. In other words, stop spending money on crap you don’t need to impress people you don’t like! (Thanks Tyler Durden!). Opt-out of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead, be ruthless in saving money on things you don’t really need.
Create a spontaneity fund: I have an Idiot fund in my Capital One Savings Fund (non-affiliate link): every month I set aside $50 to cover any bonehead mistakes (parking ticket, broken whatever, etc.) Because the money is automatically deducted from my checking account, I don’t notice it missing. Why not create an automatically funded “spontaneity fund?” Set aside just $10 or $20 from each paycheck and automatically pull it into a free savings account.
Then, when spontaneous things arise, you can’t use “I can’t afford it” as an excuse. And you can’t use “I don’t have time” as an excuse.
So, you should probably just do the damn thing and have the time of your life.
Steve Ships Up To Boston
Last week, I flew up to Game 6 of the World Series between my beloved Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Growing up in Massachusetts, I was raised a Sox fan. Following them is like breathing: it’s just what you do. You know who’s pitching, where they are in the standings, and who the Yankees are playing.
I tend to go a bit overboard as a fan – I actually have friends that refuse to watch sports with me because I stress them out. Oops.
When my buddy Mike Pacchione, a fellow die-hard Sox fan who lives in Portland, OR, reached out to me and said “Let’s go to Game 6,” all I could think of was excuses: “I need flights. There’s no way we can get inside. What if they lose? Watching from my couch is easier and safer. I’m tired. I’m too busy.” Tickets were going for record prices, I’d only be able to fly up for 24 hours, and it would be a crazy, chaotic mess for most of the day.
I then thought to myself, “What a great story and memory this will be. When was the last time I’ve done something spontaneous and crazy?”
So I called up Mike, let out an audible sigh and said “F*** it. Let’s go.” (Sorry for swearing Gramma!)
After a bit of travel hacking wizardry and anxious mouse clicks looking for tickets, I was in. Not wanting to forget any of it, I chronicled my entire journey with a camera and put together a highlight reel below.
(Side note: If you hate the Red Sox or are a Yankees/Cardinals fan, you might not want to watch this. You’ve been warned. The rest of the Rebellion: ENJOY!)
Just say yes
I found myself saying “no” to too many adventures over the past six months.
I found myself spending too much time focusing on things that weren’t truly important, that didn’t make me happy. After all, our goal here is happiness, ya?
So I made a concerted effort to practice selective frugality with both my money, time, and mental energy. I started spending less time on things that didn’t make me happy or improve my life, and instead started saying “YES” to more things that were unknown, last minute, and/or potentially exciting.
Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and see what happens.
I’d love for you to share a simple memory from your past when you chose “spontaneity” and “story” over “but I really should…”
I had a 10 page paper due for a Political Science class in college, and instead chose to go get pizza and drive around Nashville with my friend Megan. I had to stay up until 8 AM finishing the paper, and turned it in one minute before it was due. To this day, I can’t remember what the paper was, but I’ll never forget the few hours I spent with a great friend.
Let’s hear it!
PS: Quick note: I’m not advocating shirking your important duties and responsibilities, but rather truly spending time thinking about what’s important and keeping that in mind! What we assume is important might not always be true. Don’t forget to ask yourself, “I am enjoying the game I’m playing?” Tomorrow is not guaranteed!
PPS: CHARLESTON, SC Rebels! I’m going to be in Charleston at the beginning of next week. Maybe we can do a NF meetup Tuesday night the 12th? I’ve created a Facebook event so we can get the ball rolling.