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The Next 68

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The Next 68

Today is my birthday. I’m 24 years old.

Writing that feels strange, because today feels just like any other day. I woke up at five o clock, showered, meditated, worked out and then read and journaled for a while like usual. It doesn’t feel like a birthday. After “the big two one,” birthdays aren’t something you look forward to as much, but there are a couple of things I still love about them.

I love that I usually get to spend extra time with my wife, children and the rest of my family on my birthday. I have recently learned that time with family and friends is something I value more than almost anything. I love listening to each other’s stories, playing games and just growing closer together. These are times that I took completely for granted growing up when I had so much free time and I truly miss them. So it feels extra special any time I am able to hang out with them.

The other thing I love about birthdays is that they force me to think about my life. They remind me that statistically, I am a certain percentage finished with my life on Earth. This is a sobering, yet exciting thought for me. The average male who lives in Michigan, USA lives to be seventy-five years, two hundred and fifty-one days, twenty hours and twenty four minutes old. 

I did the math and I am thirty-two percent finished with my life as of today. I try as hard as I can to be a glass-half-full sort of person whenever possible. So I decided that instead of thinking about the thirty-two percent that is over, I am going to focus on the sixty-eight percent that is yet to be passionately lived.

My first twenty-four years have been incredibly good. God has blessed me richly and I have learned to be so thankful for everything I have. I was able to grow up in a good, loving home, graduate High School with pretty good grades, get my photography certification, marry my dream girl, have two beautiful boys, start three successful businesses, advance in a full time job for the Michigan Treasury Department, purchase our dream home in the country on twenty acres, become involved in a local church that loves God and people with a passion and see my family grow through it all. 

I am reminded today of how good my life has been, but also that it could end any day. Life is not a guarantee. Every day we as humans drive sixty miles per hour in a vehicle only inches away from traffic that is traveling the opposite direction at the same speed. One small mistake could be the end. The way we eat in America causes most of us to be at a high risk of heart problems. People take a lot of different vitamins and medicine every day. One mistake at the factory where those pills are made could be how you go out. (Side note: medical errors is the third leading cause of death world wide.) There are so many ways that life could end unexpectedly. I don’t say these things to sound like a paranoid necrophobe; I am only saying that life is a fragile thing and it could end at any moment. I have made the commitment to live my life to the fullest. I wasted a lot of time in high school and in my early twenties. I am just now realizing how precious life is.

This is not dress rehearsal, people!
— Dale Partridge

Have you ever thought about that? We each get one shot at this! (Unless you believe in re-incarnation…. In which case, I wish you the best of luck in your next life as a dung beetle.) I hear so many people say that they aren’t sure what to do with their lives. They can’t find their passion. They go to school because that’s what our culture tells them to do. They get a job to pay off their hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. They buy a house and make payments on it for thirty years, paying more than double what the house is worth in interest. If they ever actually pay it off, they might squeak by with a small pension (if they’re lucky) or a 401k with a small monthly distribution for them to spend until they die. None of these things are inherently bad or wrong, but do you ever wonder if there is a bigger meaning and purpose for your life?

There are thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have in order to impress people they don’t even like.
— Nigel Marsh

I write all of this to say one thing: don’t waste your life. Find something that you are passionate about and that will help the world, and then do it. Do it every single day for the rest of your life. If you have entrepreneurial tenancies like me, you might have several things you want to do every day. That’s fine! Just find purpose in your life and live it out day by day.

You never know how many more birthdays you will have. Don’t waste your life.

Stay Awesome,


Ethan

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The Ponderless Society

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The Ponderless Society

I felt the subtle vibration on my left thigh and instinctively reached for my pocket, only to find it empty. 

This was how my 2016 Memorial Day weekend began, and the pattern continued repeatedly. For two days I made the commitment to enjoy the holiday weekend with friends and family by putting my phone away and making an effort to be present at all times. I held down my iPhone’s power button and slid my thumb to the right in order to shut it down, an action I usually only do once a month or so, when the device needs a reboot. I had had enough. 

I love Apple products in general, but especially my iPhone. My life basically exists on this device. Every day I have constant notifications reminding me to do things I would otherwise forget, calendar notifications keeping me on schedule, emails from clients that I need to respond to, plus the endless world of social media I try to stay current on in order to run a successful business. It is a great tool that keeps me on track, but it can also very easily consume me when I’m not careful. Between running multiple businesses, staying educated with podcasts and audiobooks, texting friends, emailing clients, keeping my tax records up to date, keeping track of business mileage, etc… I was burned out. I needed to recharge.

My wife, our two boys, our dog Hemi and I all headed up to Farwell, Michigan where Kim’s parents own a cottage within eyesight of Littlefield Lake. Normally on trips like this I pack clothes, my DSLR travel bag, my laptop bag, my iPhone, a charger and headphones (for audiobooks,) among other things. But this time pretty much all I took were the clothes on my back. I did take my iPhone in case of emergency, but I turned it off and placed it in my pocket. 

When we arrived at the lake on Saturday morning, we began relaxing immediately. I have a small travel sized hammock I keep in the trunk of my car, so I unpacked that, set it up between two trees and took a nap. I woke up off and on during my nap and each time I awoke, my hand reached for my pocket to grab my phone. My brain was subconsciously telling me to check my Snapchat feed for new stories and my Instagram feed for new posts. When I pulled my phone out of my pocket, I remembered I had turned it off and I would return it to my pocket. Even though it was turned off and of no use to me, I realized at this moment that I was receiving comfort by simply having this device in my pocket. I am so used to carrying that little powerful box of information that anytime I don’t feel that extra bit of weight in my left pocket, I become uncomfortable. At this time, I got out of my hammock and put my phone in the car. I walked away and returned to my hammock, feeling quite naked.

I feel silly admitting my struggle with separating from my phone, but this is the age we live in. Phones are beautiful and useful tools, but think about how much we rely on them. When you are bored and have nothing to do, what do you rely on? Your phone. When you are walking through the store and you see someone you don’t want to talk to, what do you do? You pull your phone out of your pocket and pretend you’re doing something important (even though in reality you leave your screen off and just tap on random areas of the glass to make the person think you are typing. Don’t worry, we all do it.)

We are so reliant on our phones that we as a society are forgetting how to be human.

I recently read a book by Kevin DeYoung labeled, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. In this book, Kevin (a Pastor from a church in Lansing, Michigan) calls our society the “ponderless society” and believes that we have made ourselves so busy that we no longer ponder anything. 

I feel that because I have allowed myself to be so consumed by the art of consuming, I have forgotten how to ponder things.

The dictionary defines the word ponder as follows: to think about or consider something carefully. I feel that because I have allowed myself to be so consumed by the art of consuming, I have forgotten how to ponder things. My brain has become A.D.D. and cannot focus on one thing for more than five seconds. 

By placing my iPhone in my car, I gave myself the opportunity to ponder again. I laid in my hammock for the majority of the weekend, read half of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, talked with family, relaxed around a bonfire, ate good food, drank good drinks and thought a lot about how blessed my life is. I think I am going to make this a habit in the future. 

When I arrived home, I navigated to the notifications setting and turned off the majority of them. I am no longer notified when someone comments on a photo. I am no longer notified when I receive an email (I check it twice per day.) My thigh no longer vibrates every five seconds and I am more able to think deeply and to muse more often. Friends, I know it’s hard, but we need to back away from our devices and begin reuniting our families. If this post has moved you in any way, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay Awesome,

 

Ethan

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