While positivity is a the central objective of SuperOptimism, it’s often by saying “no” that we can achieve some of life’s most empowering results. Consider all the insidious little things that waste time, do us no good, or ruin our chances for a better outcome. These are habits we are socially conditioned to perform, yet add nothing to our lives. Certainly there are at least 65 things you do every day that you don’t care much about. What if you said “no” to these soul-sucking activities that pull you away from your essential purpose?
If you explore the radical power of saying “no” more often, you may become a NOHEMIAN — a person who has changed their habits to say no more often. It’s based on the old cultural idea of “bohemian.” Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary, or spiritual pursuits. In this context, bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème (literally “high Bohemia”).

Nohemia is directly related to Bohemia, as it too is an unconventional lifestyle in a world of “yes” men and women. Saying no means you are less controlled by the outside influences imposed on you by other people and more responsive to your own internal, authentic nature. You are able to assert yourself by turning your back on nonsensical social mores and the small insults a person must endure in the course of an average day.

The best way to learn how to say “No” is to sit down with a piece of paper, reflect on your day, and write down things that you can say “no” to. Your list may look something like this:

1. No TV after 11 PM
2. No fake bullshit corn chips, only real corn chips.
3. No self-doubt.
4. No answering phone with unrecognizable number.
5. No Facebook.
6. No pointless hairspray.
7. No cheap pizza, ever.
8. No use of weird-smelling soaps.
9. No cleaning the kitchen floor.
10. No Black Friday shopping (in person)
By saying “No,” you are putting yourself in the driver’s seat, displaying conviction where others choose to waffle, bend and break. Watch how many people want to ride shotgun in your car once you do! As for Fear of Missing Out? From our experience, there’s always another bus a’ coming.
*If it’s difficult to say “no” directly, here are some other ways to get the point across.

How many times do human beings set themselves up to fail? One universal example is the classic “Change on a Dime” plan. “I’m going to quit smoking today.” “I’m going to lose 25 pounds in a week.” “I’m going to write a best-selling suspense novel, sell it for $300,000, pay off my credit card debt, move the family to a warmer climate, and really start living! By next month!”

Setting unrealistic goals is a sure way to drive yourself into a deep crevice. Rather than look realistically at the situation, we crank ourselves up for a major achievement, step in a pothole right out of the gate, and go back to the “I’m a loser who’s never going to get out of Fayetteville!” whine. Two packs a day and an extra slice of bundt cake follow shortly thereafter.

The SuperOptimist view? Maybe quitting smoking is a noble goal, but if it will cause you to kill your spouse, you should put it on the back burner. Maybe that quart of vanilla fudge nut swirl is what makes a night of insomnia tolerable. Maybe anonymous phone sex works. See where we’re going here?

Rather than set yourself up for complete and utter failure, how about turning the tables on that reluctant inner mountain climber with the rusted set of crampons? Today, set yourself up for major SuperOptimism — by not setting any goals at all! Suddenly, anything you do will seem like an accomplishment. Getting out of bed! Putting the tea kettle on! Picking up the phone when it buzzes!

Who knows, without the pressure of a self-imposed Pike’s Peak, you just might start writing that novel and forget about the long naps and bundt cake for awhile. You never know until you start lowering the bar!

Chart 2: A good day’s work.

 

Jeff Bezos is a failure.

There, we’ve said it. This may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, where the amount of money a person has is the measurement by which people are judged. But anyone building a 411-foot yacht that burns 132 gallons of marine diesel an hour  has obviously got issues (though apparently the environment isn’t one).*

Maybe that’s because poor Jeff and his fellow clueless billionaires don’t have the capacity for healthy introspection. Or the ability to transcend the material world to find even greater happiness within. If only Beezos had turned to omphaloskepsis, he might have saved himself $500 million — and be looked on as a real success.

Omphaloskepsis is another word for navel-gazing.  While this pursuit has gotten a bad rap from the money-changers as a useless waste of time, that is only because they’re not aware of its transcendent power, both as an aid to meditation and a way to contemplate the vast cosmos from which all life is connected.

After all, the navel literally represents the location of one’s birth, since it’s made up of scar tissue from the spot where the umbilical cord was attached. By focusing the attention there, you can experience a rebirth of the spirit as often as you like. For centuries, many seekers of higher truth have practiced gazing at the navel to induce a trance-like state.  The Hesychasts, a sect of “quietists” from c.AD 1050, believed that through deep contemplation of the body, the divine light of God could be seen.

Yoga practitioners know the navel as the site of the nabhi chakra, which they consider a powerful center of the body. It’s also a place to exercise “gut feelings,” like if you’re contemplating building a superyacht in Rotterdam and haven’t given thought to whether it will fit under the Koningshaven Bridge, now considered a national monument.

*”Eieren gooien naar superjacht Jeff Bezos ( Throwing eggs at Jeff Bezos’ superyacht)” is a call to the international egg-tossing community to bombard Bezos’ boat on June 1. More than 20,000 people have signed up to participate thus far.

Why is it that the girl or boy of our dreams almost never materializes, yet we can always attract somebody who we’re not the slightest bit interested in? Why is it when we’re in a real rush, there’s never a parking spot, but when we’ve got all the time in the world, somebody pulls out right in front of us?

A lesson here? Remove the word “need” from your vocabulary. If you don’t give a monkey’s toss what happens at any given moment, the universe will expand in direct proportion to your disinterest.

Here’s Christopher Walken, admirably demonstrating offhanded insouciance:

EXERCISE: Act completely aloof at your next job interview. Chances are, they’ll make you an offer. Refuse — and they’ll up it to a management position. Shake your head no, and boom! Senior vice presidency. Move towards the door waving goodbye, and they’ll drop to their knees and plead with you to take a seat on the board. Walk out the door without agreeing to their terms and you’ll be 5 times closer to your real goal!

Why are we writing about snow days in August? Because they are one of the great spontaneous joys of life. There should be more of them, and they shouldn’t be relegated to bleak days of winter. And they’re especially important when the heat index reaches 105.

With the right attitude, you can experience a snow day any day of the year. One way we like to get started is by placing a snow globe on the nightstand. When you wake up, give that snow globe a good shake and watch the flakes dance merrily in the glycerin contained within. You can even create your own personalized snow globe for added merriment. 

Now decide whether this day should be a “regular day” or a “snow day”. If it’s the latter, go back to sleep for as long as you like. (Naturally, it helps if your snow day falls on a “summer Friday” or you are self-employed, but this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A veteran snow-day conjurer can always create an excuse that passes mustard with the powers that be.)

Granted, it’s a bit harder to conjure a snow day when the heat index creeps up to 105. The higher the temperature, the more you’ll need to visualize the snowflakes dancing down from the sky and piling up on your windowsill, with the news declaring your school or business shuttered for the day.

And like an India yogi, you can learn to cool your body through simple exercises and meditation.

Yes, a snow day just might be the best feeling in the world. And with a box of cocoa mix and some comfortable pajamas, there’s no reason why you can’t declare a snow day any day of the year. Here’s School Superintendent Rydell singing its praises. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Life throwing you curveballs? Sometimes it’s best to sit back and let Jianzhi Sengcan, the Third Patriarch of Zen, remind you that you needn’t be troubled by slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Here are the first stanzas of Sengcan’s “Hsin Hsin Ming,”* containing all the instructions you need for avoiding suffering and removing every obstacle to enlightenment. (And all in just 151 words.)

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such
erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

While this might sound easy, it takes practice to step away from what society labels “reality” and march to the beat of the one universal drummer.  To remind ourselves to practice at every opportunity, we’ve boiled “the Ming” down to it’s key component and wear it close to our hearts. (Four words even harder to forget!)

*Perhaps you’re wondering what “Hsin Hsin Ming” actually means. Different translators have rendered the title in different ways. Here’s a few to ponder:

  1. On Believing in Mind (Daisetsu Teitarõ Suzuki)
  2. On Faith in Mind (Dusan Pajin)
  3. Trusting In Mind (Hae Kwang)
  4. Trust in the Heart (Thomas Cleary)
  5. The Perfect Way (translator unknown)

**When it comes to t-shirts, you could always wear one of these. (Although we have no preference either way.)

Unless you are an anthropoid or alien, sometime in the last 24 hours you had a moment of doubt, worry or alarm.

It might have been fear of losing your job. Or possibly you distrusted a friend or partner’s feelings for you. Maybe you worried that fire or storms would destroy your home. Or had a nagging feeling that getting older might actually kill you. Why, with Halloween almost upon us, you might even have a fear of All Hallow’s Eve itself. (This is termed Samhainophobia, and originates from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to usher in the darker time of year — and ward off ghosts.)

Whatever your trepidation, how do you get rid of gnawing anxiety, creepy shivers, or full blown panic?

Start by thinking of one scary thing that’s on your mind right now. Something you tend to avoid, but that sparks fear in you.  Whatever your boogeyman is, say the word out loud. Be it “sharks” or “elevators” or “corporate administrators” or “trapped on a Boeing 737 Max.” Giving voice to your fear can make you realize that what spooks you is mostly living in a dark corner of your mind, and is not an imminent threat. If sharks scare you and you live in Kansas, the worry is not a real threat. If you work on Wall Street and have a fear of farm threshers, you’re good for now. 

Now take it a step further: Think about the worst thing that could happen if your fear actually materialized. What if that shark found its way to Kansas and bit your leg clean off?  It’s true your professional tap-dancing career could be over, but you might still go on to win a gold medal in the Paralympics. If you lost your business, lost your faithful dog, lost your spouse or lost your mind, it can be the start of a bold new chapter in your life adventure.

The point is, when your worst fears happen, it is never game over. You will always have the power to change your attitude, even in the worst of situations.  What about death, you ask? On the plus side, you finally get a good night’s sleep!

But this doesn’t mean you should walk around completely unprepared for the worst.  Excrement does hit the fan, so what is the simplest solution to overcoming the fear you may be avoiding? After all, the only thing worse than our fear becoming manifest is being caught with our pants down, when we always knew better.

While we can’t list them all, here are a few suggestions to place in your fear-dispelling toolkit. Good luck, and may you vanquish your fear once and for all!

83-function swiss army knife, should you find yourself abandoned in deep forest.

 

Tactical pro flashlight to shine a light on burglars, predators and small rodents.

Roadside assistance kit when there’s no cell service to call Triple A.

 

Bear attack deterrent, for bear attacks.

Book to read before asking for a raise.

 

We could all use more luck in our lives, especially given the extreme events of the moment. So how do you persuade fortune to shine it’s toothy grin upon you going forward?

Richard Wiseman, a British psychology professor at the University of Hartfordshire, examined the difference between self-professed lucky and unlucky people. He found that lucky people those open to new experiences. They’re more willing to talk to new people and try new things.  Even should their life take a turn for the worse, they can still find the positive in the situation. (Yes, even in a pandemic.)

Of course, it never hurts to carry a special charm, or talisman, to improve your luck while you’re going about meeting new people and doing new things. This object may not actually hold any special powers or magical conductivity, but the important thing is that you believe it gives you an edge. With that belief comes better juju. You know, juju, like in Silver Linings Playbook.

While Eagles fans favor green sweaters, white jerseys, and Carson Wentz prayer candles, we’re partial to evil eye keychains, a counterintuitive way to keep luck on your side. The evil eye is a curse believed to be cast by a jealous glare or other negative energy, which is usually directed towards a person who is unaware. By carrying an evil eye keychain, you’ll be protected from evil spirits and bad luck. Add an owl to signify wisdom, and you’ll gain an edge there too!

It can’t hurt to keep some Chinese Emperor coins in your car, kitchen, backpack and valise. Round with a square-shaped hole in the center, they are said to be a representation of earth surrounded by heaven. A handful ought to do the trick.
Of course, you could always wear your luck on your sleeve. Or better yet, on you feet. A pair of blackjack cowboy boots lets everyone know that you’ve got prosperity on your side.

Now if all this isn’t enough for you, why not go full Wiccan and cast some good luck spells for prosperity, love, and health. Naturally, we advise reading up on this before you start your “abra cadabras.” *

And to augment the spells, don’t forget to sprinkle a little voodoo oil on yourself. Here’s a formula that bills itself as “a powerful blend that helps remove obstacles and clears a path for you to accomplish your goals.”

And with that, we wish you good luck, especially if your name is Shirley.

*Errant invocations can have unwanted side effects. You don’t want to turn anyone into a frog by mistake. Although if you do, please take it to a local nature preserve so it can live in peace.

One SuperOptimist practice we never get tired of? Adding the phrase “And isn’t that great!” to any thoughts we may be having.  A recent example can be illustrated by the following:

“Goddamn, I’ve just broken a tooth on a macadamia nut. Now I’ll have to see a dentist.”

Simply add our four magic words, and you can turn this bummer into a blessing: “Goddamn, I’ve just broken a molar on a macadamia nut. Now I’ll have to see a dentist. And isn’t that great!”

Here you’ve taken a rather pedestrian situation in which pain, expense, and inconvenience are the assumed outcomes, and reframed it into something that may have positive consequences.  After all, with the proper attitude, who knows what might happen at the dentist? You could meet a new lover in the waiting room! Your dentist might be experimenting with laughing gas and offer you some! You could decide to spring for an additional ultra-whitening session and walk out of there looking like Hollywood royalty!  Your dentist might accidentally find you have a serious lesion in your mouth that was going to kill you if you hadn’t seen him in time!

Here’s another one:

“Christ, where did summer go? It’s back to cold again.”

Again, add the phrase that pays.

“Christ, where did summer go? It’s back to cold again. And isn’t that great!”

Why is it great? It’s great because the cold helps you burn body fat, leading to a slimmer figure. It’s great because the cold keeps away invasive insects, like the Asian Tiger Mosquito. Most of all, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not stuck in these temperatures for long, and there’s a cup of hot cocoa waiting for you at the end of your journey.

Here’s another: “Donald Trump is still president. And isn’t that great!”

On the surface, this seems like a nonstarter if you’re not a MAGA-hat wearing racist. But give it a moment to sink in. Instead of wanting to hide under the covers at the thought, you can feel good that nuclear missiles remain in their silos and Ivanka hasn’t been named Secretary of Defense. (Not yet, anyway.)

And one more: “With my mediocre attempts at art, I’m never going to be the next Van Gogh. And isn’t that great!”

So your work isn’t on display in MOMA’s permanent collection.  Instead, you’re making a living selling commercial real estate, or working as an attorney, or driving an Uber. Why is that great? The pressure on you to be the next artistic success has been lifted, freeing you up to do more experimental work that may one day be celebrated after your death.*

*Also, your day job affords you a few niceties, like food and shelter, so you don’t have to ask a family member to support you like Vincent did. And while we can’t be sure, your psychotic episodes probably won’t lead you to sever your own appendage, unlike the struggling post-impressionist.

 

Another day, another set of absolute miracles taking place. And in every direction!

Wait, you didn’t see them?

Perhaps you have become inured to such marvels. You are not alone. Since humanity started about 6 million years ago with primates known as the Ardipithecus, miracles have become so plentiful in life, we take them for granted.

Yet all it takes to reignite the senses to the incredible phenomena that surround us is to pause and consider that it wasn’t very long ago that humans walked on all fours and had body hair they could neither groom nor shampoo. And today? In haircare alone, you have your choice of hundreds of fabulous shampoo brands! (Here are the statistics on the favorites from 2018.)

See how everyday occurrences we take for granted can become jaw-dropping revelations, just by reframing your perspective? Here are a few more examples that we’ve recently found deserving of deeper appreciation.

DAILY COMMUTE: We take a “train” pulled by a “diesel engine” that runs on “steel tracks” from one “state” to another. That’s amazing!

PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT: We work in a “building” that’s 52 stories tall, has 21 “elevators” and 189 “water fountains”. That’s amazing!

LUNCHTIME IN THE CITY: We eat a “pulled pork sandwich” from a “food truck” one block away, and they give us an “extra side of coleslaw” because it’s almost closing time. That’s amazing!

CHANCE AT GREAT FORTUNE: Twice a week we buy a “ticket” that qualifies us to win hundreds of millions of “dollars” if our numbers are chosen. That’s amazing!

MOBILE PHONE: We all stare at a “computer” the size of a human hand that offers endless news, games, televisions shows, weather, and “shopping opportunities”. That’s amazing!

STREET BUSKER: Every morning there’s a man near the 42nd St. “shuttle” who wears a “paper crown” on his head and plays “House of the Rising Sun” on a red Telecaster “guitar”. That’s amazing!

We could keep going like this all day. And you can too!  Any time you feel the heavy burden of routine starting to drag you into the darkness, close your eyes, click your heels, and remember that you have eyes and heels to close and click.  Then open your eyes, point at the nearest object, and marvel at it out loud.

“Wow, that’s a ‘metal file cabinet’ that contains sheets of ‘paper’ with words and pictures on it.  That’s amazing!”*

*Note: You may need to explain to onlookers why you are behaving like this, as they probably aren’t as attuned to the miracles of everyday existence as you are.