Death And Manure And A Microphone

I’ve recently been getting into Alan Watts, an English philosopher who has a lot of Eastern-styled wisdom to share to Western audiences. And he does it so well since he’s studied both, having written books on Zen and having been an Episcopal priest. And then he’s got that British accent, so, c’mon, anything you say with a British accent is basically truth. He’s essentially unstoppable, with a lot of his lectures on YouTube.

One quote of his that recently caught my fascination was the following:

Everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things. One is to consider death. To observe skulls and skeletons and wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up – never! That is a very gloomy thing for contemplation, but it’s like manure. Just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation of death and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You’ll get wonderful things out of that.

David DeAngelo talks about this in one of the deeper sections of his DVD program, ‘On Being A Man’. By embracing the fact that your own death can happen, doesn’t that give you another view on life? Doesn’t that re-prioritize what you plan on doing today? All that stuff you’re worried about or that annoys you on a day-to-day basis, kinda small potatoes in comparison, no? It’s small stuff. Or, as my former supervisor would put it:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.

Thus, I went to RadioShack and bought a microphone.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

On Sundays, me and my lady run away, far far away, across the river, to the mystical land of Cambridge. There, among the locals, we mingle with the plebeians at a watering hole of our spontaneous choosing. There, we read the New York Times over cappuccinos and pastries. There, I turn to a favorite column of mine: Corner Office by Adam Bryant, in the SundayBusiness section. There, last Sunday, he interviewed LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who was asked, “What career advice do you give to business school students?” His response is below. Challenge yourself. Do the exercise he mentions as soon as you read it.

The advice I give about their career path and realizing their dreams starts with me saying: “I’m going to ask you a question, and you’re going to have 15 seconds to answer it: Looking back on your career 20, 30 years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished? Go.”
If they can’t answer it in 15 seconds, it probably means they haven’t thought about the answer before that moment, or they don’t have a definitive answer, which is fine, because for some people that’s a lifelong journey. But you can’t realize your goal if it’s not defined. It sounds so simple but it’s true.

So? What did you get? I enjoy these different ways of finding one’s life vector / heart song / master purpose. This take is more from the approach of looking back and being happy, versus doing what rings true with you now and every day. Ideally, the latter leads to the former.

So? What’s your answer?


Remember the old Facebook? I mean, the old Facebook. I mean, the OLD Facebook. Back when you had to log in to with a .EDU email address. Back when the homepage had the list of schools that were coveted members of the walled blue garden with that face in the upper-left corner. Back when you didn’t have zombie wars or mafia wars, just poke wars. Back when your favorite quote of some inside joke from your dorm floor was right on your profile page and not hidden five clicks under your secondary yet larger profile pic. Here is mine, by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

If a man is to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Essentially, be the best at whatever you do. Sounds trite, yes no? It’s just not that exciting. Doesn’t have that special somethin’ somethin’. Being some generic ‘most good’ at some activity comes off as very… impersonal. So let’s inject a tonne (1000 kilograms, which is more than the more familiar ‘ton’, which is 2000 pounds, which is 907.19 kilograms) (you’re welcome) of personality in.

Let’s thus talk about a Cadenza!

…a piece of furniture that became very fashionable during the second half of the 19th century. Often made of a burnished and polished wood decorated with marquetry, a central cupboard would be flanked by symmetrical quadrant glass display cabinets. The top would often be made of marble, or another decorative stone, or of inlaid wood.

Crap, that was a Credenza. Not the type of ‘personality’ I was going for. Let’s try again.

…an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a “free” rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display.

That’s a Cadenza. Much better. You hear the personality in that? Soloist! Virtuoso! It’s not just showing off, though; it is an opportunity to pour your heart into your art. It is your heart, so it is in a unique style that is distinctly yours, and nobody else’s. It is your heart, so it is your essence and undeniably associated with your core.

…and doesn’t all that sound better than ‘best’?

In brief, I’ll unflourishingly channel my inner Forrest Gump and end this by submitting another shade of ‘find your life path’: Life is like a cadenza. Find an art into which you can pour your heart.


Alright you music geeks, I’m talking to you. We know cadenzas are indicated by a fermata over a ‘rest’. Thus, this held space represents… potential. The way we’re told the sky is the limit and we’re free to go nuts, shedding shame to share our virtuosity, is via a vacuum explicitly laden with possibility. A cadenza is both (visually) empty and (audibly) full.

The notes that are played are unwritten… cadenzas are indicated by an ‘uncarved block’… I’d call this pure potential the closest musical equivalent to Pu. Sounds deep, yes no?

(Too close for missiles. Switching to guns.)

Find Your Path via Dreamlining

Ah, Dreamlining. Putting a timeline to your dreams. Defining them and their costs, and then creating a plan to realize them within 6 months, the first step of which can be taken today. In ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, he goes into detail about how to do this, providing a worksheet to fill out how you would realize ‘the four dreams that would change it all’.

Man, doesn’t that sound great? The four dreams that would change it all… How about just one dream – let’s start with that. Need a little help? (I want a motorcycle! I already have the jacket…) He provided some questions that should get that dream engine started. Ask yourself the following.

  • What if there was no way I could fail?
  • What if I were 10 times smarter than the rest of the world?
  • What would I do day to day if $100 million were in the bank?
  • What am I most excited to wake up to day to day?
  • What am I good at?
  • What could I be best at?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What excites me?
  • What makes me feel accomplished & good about myself?
  • Can I repeat or further develop what I’m most proud of having accomplished in my life?
  • What do I enjoy sharing or experiencing with other people?

So go ahead. I’m sure your gut has an answer. What are the four dreams that would change it all?

Find Your Path via Alignment

Steve Pavlina, at his website, (Personal Development for Smart People), covers a lot of deep and practical approaches to growing as a conscious human being. To find your purpose in life, he first advises you come to terms with your actions and beliefs, not what you think you believe or think you should believe. This is your context. If you want to change your context to a more empowering one, you first have to accept what you’ve got for a world view and what you really value.

I’m going to skip a few steps and get to something really juicy. He proposes the concept of living congruently, where each aspect/category of your life (work, family, fun, spirit, etc.) is in alignment because they follow the same set of values. In this sense, you are also living with clarity because once you’ve identified values that ring true with you, all aspects of your life work together towards your life purpose, the big example being what you do for work is also something you enjoy.

To get to this point, your answers to the following four questions should ideally be the same.

  • What SHOULD I do?
  • What MUST I do?
  • What CAN I do?
  • What do I WANT to do?

Align the answers to these questions, and you have alignment in your life.