Where I’m at…

Lately, I’ve been seeing and hearing from lots of new folks coming here thanks to my appearance in the Minimalism documentary which recently started running on Netflix. Very cool and humbling, to say the least. So, this is a post to help folks find what they may be looking for and where to dig in to find more.

Posts here generally run on a “when I have something to say that belongs here” schedule. I post far more frequently right now at Rhoneisms. That’s my place for shorter essays and thoughts.

Go here if you’d like to buy the book enough which was mentioned in the film.

All of my books are available for purchase here.

I have also posted many things here around the subject of enough. You may enjoy reading how I increasingly subscribe to an Amish approach to technology, a great way to make your Twitter timeline more sane, or how we are better off when we choose tools and methods that are proven. All of these and more are about the choices that lead to a more simple and meaningful life.

I also have a free newsletter that has been warmly received. The schedule, format, and topics are irregular but I’m confident that those that subscribe find something helpful show up in their email inboxes every once in a while. Take a look at the archive if you’d like to get a sense of what I write about there.

Finally, I love being a guest on podcasts, email interviews, and any other engagement where I can reach and help more people. My info page tells you everything you need about me and how to get in touch. Please do.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world a better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

Right Livelihood

Right Livelihood is the fifth precept in the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. I have found this one the most difficult for me to find a way to apply to my online interactions and communications (and, thus, write about).

The precept is meant to speak to the way we make income or take on tasks. It discourages making any profit from those businesses or dealings which harm others, ourselves, or otherwise do not respect life. In the Buddha’s time, this spoke to things such as drug dealing, weapon manufacturing or sales, slavery, butchery, and even fortune telling. While I’m sure there are people using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to help facilitate such transactions, I have not had any first hand experience with such. I certainly do not traffic in any of these nor do I ever plan to. Therefore, it would be easy for me to call this one "done" and move along.

But, I don’t think any of us should get off so easily when navigating the Eightfold Path. Each precept is meant as a prompt for our deeper consideration. Therefore, I feel compelled to seek any way my business dealings might be falling short of my greater spiritual goals. In a way, to borrow the popular Christian meme, I find myself asking "What would the Buddha do?".

Is the price of my products a fair one on both sides of the transaction? Am I paying too much attention to impermanent metrics like sales, downloads, or followers? Am I advertising my products and services in a way that is boastful, deceptive, or insensitive? All of these could just as easily fall under and be addressed by the concepts within Right Livelihood.

Right livelihood also stresses that we do not take our work for granted. That all of our actions, especially our daily tasks, are the result of all that came before and simply a contribution to a greater whole. That pride and hubris in our success is simply a recipe for suffering when change in such inevitably occurs so we should not dwell on it. So, to use social media to constantly promote our good work and congratulate ourselves on our own success simply makes this insecurity apparent to the world. Work that is consistently good speaks for itself.

I use the concept of Right Livelihood to remind me to keep my focus on doing work that contributes to the greater good, that is meaningful and helpful to those that choose to purchase my products and services, to humbly realize that any failures or successes will be fleeting, and that the most mindful path is to simply continue to do good work.

As the old Zen proverb says, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

What Will You Be Remembered For?

My Grandmother was a piano teacher. She was also a world renowned concert pianist. She was awarded her Ph.D. in Piano Performance from the University of Iowa. She was also a freedom fighter, quite active in the civil rights movement in the south. She was also the author of three books about the life of a blind pianist named Blind Tom Wiggins. She was on the Board of Trusties at Dillard University for many years. She was a college professor at the University of Minnesota for about thirty years and Chair of her department for ten of those.

My Grandmother passed away many years ago. If you asked one of her former students who she was, they would likely say, “Dr. Southall was one of my college professors.” If you asked someone who read her books they would reply, “She was the author of the Blind Tom books.” And, if you asked one her friends from college they’d say, “Oh, the girl who played piano? She was pretty good!”

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a Writer and a Technology Consultant. I find it interesting that most of them then follow up with questions about either one of those things, but almost never both. If they latch on to the “Writer” they will ask what I write and I’ll direct them to my site and tell them about my books. If they latch on to the Technology Consulting part, they usually want to know if I can help them in some way with their Mac or their PC or their Website. I give them a card and let them know I can help. My bet is that if someone were to ask them only minutes after we speak what I do, they would likely only tell you the one thing that mattered to them.

This goes not only for the things you do but also for who you are. People will remember what mattered. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who screamed and yelled and flipped other drivers off from behind the wheel? Do you want to be remembered as the person who never had a nice thing to say? Do you want to be remembered by your children as a harsh, strict, and unforgiving parent? Of course no sane person would want any of these things — we all have had our bad moments and made our mistakes. Yet, if we do such things often we risk being remembered for them.

We are all many things. We all do many things. We will do many more things throughout our lives. Yet, when we are gone, most will primarily remember only one of them. They will pick from the lot and remember you as that. What they pick will, in their mind at least, be all that you are. Therefore, it is our job to ask ourselves with all the things we allow ourselves to do, with each and every one, “Is this something I want to be remembered for?”

This is why it is important to make “No” your default response to most things. Those things that seem like great ideas should get a “maybe” until they earn a solid answer one way or the other. But “yes” should only be given to those things that, if you were gone tomorrow, you wouldn’t mind being remembered for.

Note: This came out of a conversation I recently had with my friend Jeff Sandquist. You can read his take on it here: What Do You Do?

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

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