Stop Signs

What is left to do when you’re doing everything you want? Well, if you want to excel at any of it — do less.

“Yeah, I live here.”

I was found again, asleep in the parking lot to my own condo complex, by a man I’d never met before. I was face-down on the concrete in a collared shirt and dress pants. Dead to the world.

“What unit?”

  • “625.”

“I suggest you go to it before I call the police.”

Didn’t have to tell me twice. I sauntered to my second-floor walk-up, gingerly closed the door behind me and planted face-down on my pillow. I woke up 90 minutes later and went to work.

This marked, by my estimation, the 20th time in the past six months I’d fallen asleep somewhere that was not somewhere I intended to fall asleep. I’ve dozed off in my car, passed out in bars and movie theaters, in the doctor’s office and conference calls. I can’t seem to stay awake anymore, and coffee barely helps.

I have a life credo that consists of three pillars:

  1. Be good.
  2. Be well.
  3. Be interesting.

I am failing at number 2 to the point where it’s starting to sabotage my attempts at number 1 and number 3. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me [or anyone who’s read this blog, for that matter] that I am prone to staying out well past closing hours on weeknights. I play music, often times very late, in the Live Music Capital of the World(TM). My friends do not have day jobs. I occasionally do well with the opposite sex. It’s not uncommon for me to spend weeks at a time only using my home as a pit-stop for sleeping and showering. My excessive lifestyle of burning the candle at both ends is destroying my health, my relationships, my psyche and my life. My mind and body are breaking down. And to what end?

What am I out there chasing at 2 a.m.?

The signs are everywhere. I’m sluggish in my day-to-day. I have an unkempt dwelling. I often stroll into work disheveled and avoid unnecessary human contact. I sleep through alarms. I alternate between irritable and apathetic. Instead of cooking meals, I stuff my face with wings and pizza. I weigh just 179 pounds yet I am (somehow) 33% body fat. I (sometimes) exercise on weekends. I forget things. I’ve lost 13 debit cards. I pay bills when I feel like it.

In my attempts to do it all, I have forgotten to do the basic things. And this is slowly killing me.

No man on either side of my family has ever lived past the age of 75. Many of them have died young or irrevocably altered their lives in tragic fashion when they’ve reached my age. This may happen to me, too, but I do not wish to hasten that process by my own actions.

The signs are everywhere. They all say “stop.” I hack like I’ve worked in a coal mine for 25 years. I walk around in a stupor. I forget things we talked about five minutes ago, forget what I had for lunch and have met people dozens of times before even remembering their names. I go weeks without talking to friends and I do not follow through on personal promises made to others. I lack accountability, integrity and executive functioning capabilities.

And so, effective immediately, I am cancelling all drinking activities. All of them. You see me playing on stage at 11 p.m. and you’re just truly digging my Mash Up of “Gin-and-Juice” with the theme from “Cheers?” Keep your shot and give me the $3. I will drink gallons upon gallons of water and Topo Chico. And Kava.

Effective immediately, I will eat no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no soda and no artificial ingredients. I will consume a natural diet of fish, grass-fed meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, oil, black coffee and tea.

I will devote the remainder of my free time to the things I love: running, biking, hiking, golf, music, writing, cooking, creating, building, volunteering, talking to interesting people and spending quality time with my evil cat. I think that’s a fine reallocation of my newly freed-up minutes.

I do not plan on reintegrating this behavior into my life for a long, long time.

Now, let’s take a couple questions:

“But, John, this is a lot of sweeping change to make right now! Aren’t you setting yourself up for failure?”
I’ve thought about doing this for months. I’ve carefully considered it. I’ve tested it out for weeks at a time. I’ve been experimenting with lifestyle optimization since I got my first life coach over a year ago. This is the final piece of the puzzle and I’m supergluing it into place. I literally have no reason not to do this.
“But, John, couldn’t you just do this quietly? Are you going to keep bringing this up in more blog posts or, even worse, in real life?”
I will absolutely never mention this again. I do not wish to discuss it with anyone unless I’m asked about it. I am announcing it, once, because I want the people who care about me to hold me accountable. I will never be the pious and preachy guy who sits at a party and says “That pizza had better be vegan” or “Do you have any ginger ale for the champagne toast?” or “How do you eat/drink that poison?” No. Those people are pricks. I am doing this now so that, in the future, when I feel I am ‘better,’ I can scarf down a whole pizza or share a scotch with my son on his 21st. I am doing this so my heart stays healthy, my lungs and liver heal, my brain sharpens, my soul can stretch and I can calm down long enough to re-appreciate what makes this world so beautiful and charming and spectacular. I am doing this to save my life because it needs saving. Damn. That sounds pious and preachy. I wish it didn’t.

A long time ago, I had a girlfriend (we’re still friends, she’s probably reading this) who would say “Go slow,” when we’d part ways. It was her cute, quirky own way of sending me off and a subtle reminder to savor each moment and try not to crash-and-burn. She was right. I need to rest. I know what works (and does not work) for me is different than what works for other people.

For the longest time, I wanted to be great. I wanted to be mind-bendingly, irrepressibly great. I wanted to traverse the world, climb mountains and craft a legend. I wanted to write the Great American Novel, record a No. 1 Record, run marathons and drive to both oceans. I wanted to drink scotch with dignitaries and sit on the King’s throne. I wanted bigger, better, faster and more. Fame, fortune, wealth and wild times. I have been to that mountain top. I have seen that view. And there was nothing below great to catch me when I fell. No net. No ripcord.

Greatness, at least, defined by “let’s see how much insanity we can cram into 24 hours and repeat it the next day” is a surefire route to a personal hell. The bright lights and glitz of what we think is where we ought to be are actually fire and brimstone.

Now I realize want to be good. I want to be unapologetically, undeniably good. I want to save the world, lead people up mountains and leave a legacy. I want to tell people what they need to hear, listen to the music of others’ souls, coach people on their quest and walk with them to the ends of the Earth. I want to bring water to those who need it, and stand up to the King’s throne. I want sweeter, safer, slower and more. Friends, family, health and true love. I want to rise to that mountain top. I want to see that view. And when I fall I want you to catch me. No net. No ripcord.

It defies all logic except that of the heart: Good, amazingly, is better than great. And to “go slow” is good.

The signs are everywhere. They all say “stop.” And now they have my attention.

Besides, I live here. And it’s a pretty good life … So why am I about to change everything? Find out here.

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