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Do It

Can You Help Me Think Through Where You Get Guidance On Living a Full and Good Life?

Ben Goldhirsh

I've been talking with buddies who are religious. I'm jealous. It's like they have a team to run with that wakes them up in the morning and hassles them to get out of bed and join them on the run, and then goes a step farther and lays out a course, and also provides coaching on their form. But I, continuing the analogy, drag myself out of bed, walk out of the house into an environment that isn't super conducive to running and then don't have a course to follow or a team or coach to push me. In other words, the music I listen to, the ads I see, much of the stimuli I digest revolves around getting more or getting different, except the awesome folks I work with and my good friends and family, I feel like I don't have a lot of push or framework for pursuing a valuable, nourishing life. And I'm still hustling. So I'm curious, where are you getting the support to live your best? Is it friends, organizations, the wilderness? Thoughts would be appreciated if you have them. Thanks.



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  • jmastors

    hi friend,

    i grew up in a house where we never asked to believe in god, so i chose not to for more than 20 years. but i did grow up in the woods, attended environmental ed summer camp, and lived outside while hiking for 3 weeks with outward bound at the age of 15. at 20, i started leading wilderness trips for teenagers.

    around that time, my heart was broken by the first boy i ever truly loved. i went outside that night and laid on the grass and watched the trees waving against the black starry sky, and i thought of this book i'd picked up on a bookshelf somewhere, about how if you speak loving words (yes, thank you, i love you) in any language to water crystals they end up forming these intricate, symmetrical patterns like snowflakes, but if you speak negative words (no, i hate you, go away) they end up forming these awful incongruous shapes, like cancer.

    as i laid there watching the trees with my heart hurting in a way i never knew it could, i thought about plants, and how they grow in perfectly symmetry straight out of the earth with no human intervention whatsoever, how everything in nature exists in perfect, self-sustaining balance with everything else, and what could be at the root of all that except love? where does the wind come from, anyway? you can talk about the collision of hot air and cool air all you want but when you FEEL the wind on your face -- where does that come from?

    that was the moment i started to understand what people are talking about when they talk about this thing called god, so i told my dad exactly that, and he looked at me and said: "for 20 years i wondered if i'd made a mistake by not giving you more guidance. but now i see that it was the right thing to do." in truth, this is one of the things i am most grateful for: the chance to arrive organically at my own understanding of what it is that "god" might mean.

    for me, having faith brings you full circle: you start out believing only in rational logic, and then as you go on living and observing and making sense of it all, you start to encounter things that exceed the capacity of the human brain to understand, and as you encounter more and more of them, you start to realize the we really don't know anything at all, and then you discover quantum physics and you think: "well, fuck!"

    as some totally irrelevant guy once said, "the more i know, the more i am convinced that i know nothing." the rational being therefore comes to believe in all that she cannot know, and gradually the belief becomes stronger and filled with gratitude. to choose trust like this is faith. it is wonder; it is awe. it is the scariest, most exciting, and most fulfilling thing there is.

    the next time you are in nature, look around with new eyes. look deeply at a single patch of tree bark, and see the insects working. marvel at all you don't know. ask yourself: if nobody really knows, why couldn't it be this?

    no one has decided the fate of your life yet. you decide it every moment. every moment is an opportunity for you to put faith in yourself, in the divine light we all have within us. there's so much we cannot know about the world, but what we can try to know is ourselves, and this is where faith must begin.

    the next time you are in nature, look around. notice that nothing is apologizing for being the way it is, imperfect; nothing is trying to be something it's not. the sheer existence is shameless. simply by being, each thing fills its unique space in the ecosystem -- and everything else depends on it for this in some small, interconnected way.

    ask yourself: what is my natural state? when i'm not posing or posturing or presenting or pretending -- what does that look like? lean into this, and trust that there is space for you in this world, waiting for you to grow and fill it.

    sending you love and ever-increasing clarity,

  • miss affirmations

    I think it's important to have trust that your life is more than it maybe appears. I too sometimes feel that I could be doing more with my life, but that's not appreciating what I already have, all the little things. I also think it's good to really try to listen to your inner voice. Some people are maybe more active physically, others are more into mental activities, contemplation, everyone is different. If you are kind to yourself and let your inner wisdom guide you, you won't need a 'push', it would come naturally.

  • Mary Molloy

    Philosophy, especially transcendental and Buddhist philosophy; books, especially inspiring memoirs; music; yoga; meditation; education; uplifting people and spaces; nature, especially the ocean and the sky; practicing daily mindfulness; the compassion that emerges from recognizing the universal plight of humanity; vision boards. Carry on, Brother, the support you need will find you!

  • James.C

    Friends. Someone I see regularly. PACS164A on youtube. If I'd read "Essays in Love" by Alain de Botton soon enough, I would have made some different decisions. I'm not near the things he's currently doing, else I'd play with them.

    "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" defeated me on ~~how do you want to be remembered after you're dead~~. In general, I'm not your role model because I'm still basically lost.

  • Alyssa Harben

    Personally, while I grew up religious and still find inspiration in religion- I found it is lacking in inspiring me to be the best person I can be on it's own. It took surrounding myself with people that inspire me to be better, setting goals for myself, exploring to figure out what I wanted, and then creating a support network to get me on the path to being the best person I can be to actually foster a change in how I try to live my life.
    Education is a key component in how I am striving to be the best I can be and know as much as possible about the world. Constantly remember that every other person has intrinsic value is another one of my motivators. Finally, wanting to be someone's role model someday is another way I motivate myself to live a good and full life.

    • Ben Goldhirsh

      Alyssa, thanks so much for these thoughts. I dig everything you say, and am especially impacted by those last two points. Moving with awareness of the value of each person is so clear, and yet also sometimes needs proactive pursuit when things fall into a transactional setting that sometimes seems to be the default landscape of the day. And on the last point, hell yea. I think you've laid a better version of the what do you want them to write on your gravestone. I'll strive to move with both of these points in mind. Thanks.

  • Hillary Newman

    Hey Ben, This is a really interesting question. I think about self improvement a lot, and how I can be a better version of myself -- especially around new years. For me there are interior and exterior forces that inspire me to live better.

    A couple thoughts:

    I'll speak for myself, but I see similar trends among my friends, family, and co-workers that make me think I'm not alone in this. The desire to live "the good life" starts from within the self. That hunger to continue evolving as a good human is critical to the quest, and fuels me to surround myself by friends, work, environments, experiences, etc that will help me accomplish this goals. I'm always on the lookout for content, experiences, people, stories, etc, to help me
    feed that desire. I've found a lot of that stuff on and within the community. I'm really grateful to be apart of the community.

    I have identified some major categories in my life I constantly find myself trying to improve: physical health, mental health, relationships, and spirituality. I like to think that I have a tool box of ways to push myself in these categories, which range from a gym membership, hosting a monthly dinner series with friends, Sunday nights with my family, apps that allow me to stay connected to friends, weekly hikes or walks, etc. Part of staying on top of growing and being better is adding new, more effective tools to that tool box.

  • Patrick McDonnell


    I too have been searching for how to do this. The entrepreneurial/start-up life is all about hustle and is ever relenting. Sometimes, it feels like running on a treadmill and never going anywhere.

    A few years ago I realized something: Doing what you love is great, but how do you know what you're doing?

    In order to find this out, I started documenting things. At first making long spreadsheet lists of events I had attended, people I met, projects I worked on though out the year. Then, I started meeting folks who were super engaged in the city and started hanging out with them. What they did well, that I hadn't done, was document their experience visually. Instagram was just starting up, twitter had been around for a while, and all the other social media avenues were available. So I got on it, got a smart phone and installed all the social media apps, bought a DSLR camera and have been visually documenting my work and other people's work for them ever since, as well as in 140 characters, and blogs and facebook. I have this saying, "If you’re doing cool stuff, people want to know about it and they want to access you." I just posted an article the other day on GOOD about self-discovery, and finding meaningful work that has a value to you and others:

    Now, I'm super organized with all my work, I use the heck out of Evernote and Pocket to gather information about things I want to learn about and I use Google Docs to write and help sort stuff. I also have folders on my desktop or Dropbox with my current work flow that are organized by month. All my past year's work is on an external hard drive. My social media is in tact and I have analytics on all the programs. Googleanalytics for website, Social Bro for Twitter, Insights for Facebook and Medium and Tumblr have analytics built in. I even track my diet with, and exercise with the Nike running app. I guess what I'm saying is that I've found a way to organize and measure the things I'm doing to see WHAT I'm doing and WHERE it's going. Oh, I also use RescueTime to see how much time I'm spending on what activities daily.

    I also read a ton of articles on everything most of which I find on, Next City, Brain Picking, Explore blog, and the feeds I have set up on Feedly. I also watch a ton of TED, Creative Mornings, and YouTube and have subscribed to people and brands I like to get inspired - those are my coaches. From Tim Ferriss, to Jessica Hische, to Mark Cuban, basically DOers who teach and explain their process and have great insights about their struggles.

    Now having gone through documenting and organizing for a couple of years and building up my own identity as an urbanist, techie, artist, and whatever I want to be, I'm continuing to building on it. By the way, a lot of that time was figuring out how to do stuff. Hopefully, revealing some of the ways I navigate stuff will speed up the process.

    The way I'm building on it is by applying for grants and fellowships, and learning new skills like coding and venture capital. Ultimately, I want build up all the resources I need without any of the limitations to take an idea from spark to fruition that solves problems. In my case, city problems, because I love urbanism and figuring out how to improve the city and help folks use the city better.

    The next steps for me are showing people how to do things, writing about them, explaining them and dispelling the mythology behind design, entrepreneurship, creativity and whatever else was a barrier for entry before.

    I hope this helps. I know I didn't cover everything. If you want to talk more you know how to reach me.

    Have a great day!

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      I think the constant desire to learn and educate yourself is key to feeling fulfilled and motivated. You can surround yourself with friends and family that will help you do those things- but if you don't end up taking your own steps, the way you do, Patrick, things don't add up or lead to happiness. Constantly producing something helps. I find that when I take extracurricular classes- like art, music, or even about neuroscience, I feel like I'm expanding my mind- and so I feel like I have more potential to do something outside of my daily job duties. That's key- expanding your universe, Ben. You have to get out of the GOOD tunnel sometimes, while still letting it inform you.

    • Ben Goldhirsh

      so awesome. already following you here gives me a lot of insight and inspiration. So I guess I do get to be on this GOOD team with you and all the rest of us members, and hopefully we can start distilling the activities we're each working on into some sort of evolving map that can give guidance and the collegiality of relationships with each other that can provide support and the infrastructure through virtual and physical gathering that can give meaning and momentum. I will give you a holler next week to hop on the phone and dig into this all, as it's super cool to see how you've been beating on this path. Have you ever tried Mappiness, an app where you could start distilling what behaviors are driving what feelings, and thus better understand how to map out your happiness. I know Casey once tried it and I think I may need to give that one a whirl.

      • Patrick McDonnell

        Thanks man, likewise! Exactly, we're all on the GOOD team. I've often times wished there was a way to see all of the folks in Dallas who are also on the Perhaps, in a future iteration of the platform, entering your zip or city locates you on a map so you can connect with other Do-GOODers locally.

        I've always thought of the GOOD platform as the digital compliment to what I do on the local level. It's a place where people can define their own success and find others to collaborate with, and it broadens the conversation of social impact globally.

        I'll keep an ear out for your call next week. Just downloaded Mappiness - good looking out!

        Have a great one!

        • Ben Goldhirsh

          word. trust that that visibility is coming soon - I think it's in Q1 on the roadmap. And thank you. In general. For being awesome. It's an honor to play on this team together.