“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.”
Mark Twain is one of my newest inspirations. The man knows how to turn a phrase. His wisdom is timeless, and even, has a way of sounding contemporary even though he lived during the 1800s.
Samuel Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, and wrote under the pen name Mark Twain. He wrote several novels, two of which became American classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Twain was more than just a novelist; he was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, inventor and entrepreneur.
Sounds like he was a man’s man, and by all accounts, that he lived a full life of success and adulation. But that is not the case. Not at all.
The more I read about Twain’s life, the more I am reminded of how harsh life can be—and how it was back then compared to now. (Hint: we live in the best times that have ever existed.)
For example, early in his marriage with wife Livy, they lost their toddler son Langdon to diphtheria. Then, in 1896, his daughter Susy died of spinal meningitis at the age of 24. His youngest daughter, jean, was diagnosed with epilepsy in the mid-1890s and twice tried to murder the housekeeper during epileptic attacks. Twain’s relationship with her was distant and quarrelsome. At 29 years old, She died from a heart attack. In 1904, his wife Livy died after a long illness.
We live in the greatest time ever. Don't take that for granted[/caption]
It might come as no surprise that Twain became bitter in his later years, although he was still able to keep a filtered persona for the public. Behind closed doors, he became increasingly insensitive to friends and loved ones. Twain struggled with bouts of memory loss, paranoia and rage. In an attempt to assuage his depression, he smoked cigars and played endless hours of billiards and cards.
On April 12, 1910, Samuel Clemens—Mark Twain—died at the age of 74. He is revered as an American national treasure.
This paints quite a different story than what you might think of someone who was as revered as Twain was.
Despite having multiple well-received and successful novels, Twain struggled with finances his entire life. His publishing company eventually went bankrupt, and he could never quite grasp the monetary success he sought even though he ended up becoming a celebrity during his time.
What is my point? What is the lesson here?
Well, I’m not sure exactly. Usually when I write a Mediation I have a general idea of what I’m trying to “say” and it just comes out once I start writing. For whatever reason, today is not one of those days.
I’m a bit tired actually, which is strange considering I did a coffee tasting this morning and was completely wired (maybe I’m crashing). Anyways—yes, I know I’m rambling—I think there are a few things to note here. I’ll summarize them right quick.
First, life is short, dangerous, and anything can happen. If you don’t already know, I think death is a powerful motivator for life and believe that we should all ponder it regularly. Here’s how…
Negative visualization: Imagine your death. Now use the feelings it elicits to fuel your appreciation and gratitude for life, for the now.
Negative visualization can extend to more than just your own life; you can visualize the loss of anything you care about—belongings, health, other people.
By imaging the loss of something you care about, you are forced to appreciate it. You are forced to express gratitude for having that object in your life. This technique might sound lame or morose, but it’s not. It is extremely powerful and uplifting.
There are many reasons negative visualization is so powerful, but the main one that comes to mind is it forces gratitude. Lately I’ve been reading and thinking about gratitude a lot. It wasn't until now that I made the connection between negative visualization (which I use often in my life) and gratitude (which I’m getting better at using more often in my life). Gratitude is what makes negative visualization so powerful. It’s cool how things come full circle sometimes.
Here’s a simple gratitude technique I’ve been using lately that you can implement in your life: At the end of your day—or beginning, middle, whenever—write down three things that went well for you. These can be big things or little things. Call this your “What Went Well” exercise.
After you write three things that went well for you, visualize each one and focus on the positive feelings of appreciation you feel. Try to fill your brain with positivity around what your are visualizing. It’ll fill you up.
Start doing this at least once a day. The more you practice gratitude, the more it will filter into other areas of your life. You’ll start feeling happier and more grateful in general. When this happens, this is you becoming happier. It’s amazing.
By expressing gratitude and appreciation for what you have in life—instead of focusing on what you don’t have, which is the sickness of our consumerist society—you become a happier and more optimistic person.
I guess that’s what I wanted to “say” today.
Action: Express gratitude for what you have because it won’t always be here, nor will you always be here. After all, what’s the point of life if you aren’t taking time to appreciate what’s right in front of you?
Note: If you’ve read any of my work, you will notice a theme of action. I usually give a suggestion for taking immediate action. This is important to note. Reading books and articles to expand your knowledge and awareness is great, but what’s the point if it doesn't translate into something tangible in your life? Take action and get better. This takes your knowledge to an entirely new level. This is how you can become wise at a young age. This is how you gain experience. Action is how we get to where we want to be in life. And the thing about action is, it never leads you in a direct path to where you are trying to go in the exact way you think you should be going. For example, taking an action to express gratitude can translate into you becoming happier, which can translate into you performing better at work, school and in your relationships, which can lead to more opportunities and missing more pitfalls than you would have had you not been as happy. See what I’m getting at here? Make it routine to take consistent action in every part of your life and your entire life becomes better. If you do this, you can change your life in a relatively short period of time.