The words you put in people’s mouths are your own

People may tell you something. And if you misunderstand it, they may try to clarify what they meant when they said it.

And, unless they are known to be manipulative or approval-seeking, what they say they meant is probably what they meant (and not what you think they meant).

To assume you know what someone else was thinking or what they really meant when they said something — despite their attempts to correct you — is more a reflection of your line of thinking than it is of theirs.

The words you put in people’s mouths are your own. Allow people to explain themselves.

Language — and especially the written word — can be a tricky thing. Not everyone gets it right the first time. And even if they do, not everyone interprets it in exactly the same way.

But if you want to be offended by something because you choose to misinterpret it and insist that your interpretation is correct, it’s easy to do and that’s your choice.

But if you wish to communicate with someone clearly, I wouldn’t recommend it.

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The path less traveled

“But if I take the path less traveled I might end up feeling lonely and isolated.”

Yes, of course you might.

And if you take a road trip, you might get a flat tire or into an accident.

And if you take a walk in the woods, a tree may fall on your head or you may be attacked by a pack of rabid squirrels.

“‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.” — A.A. Milne

The fact is, if you do anything in life and take any sort of risk, something “bad” may happen to you as a result.

Or it may not.

But the same could be said if you don’t do anything at all.

Some people choose to drift through life. They follow the path of least resistance and simply go wherever it leads. Their idea of an adventure may be running low on gas on the way to the gas station. Or if they are feeling especially adventurous, taking a tour guide-driven trip to an inactive volcano.

And that’s fine. Not everyone values the same things in life.

But choosing to take control of one’s life — and deliberately directing one’s self to where they want to go — will likely make one feel much more alive and in control of one’s life than the alternative of always going in the same direction to the same places as everyone else.

The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been.” — Francis Phillip Wernig

If you want to avoid feeling lonely and isolated at times, then following the crowd is certainly one way to attempt it. Although, it is also quite possible to sit in a room full of people and feel isolated and alone.

In reality, there are only so many things you can control in life. But the decisions you make and the life you lead as a result of those decisions is one of them.

It’s not so much what happens to you in life that matters as how you choose to learn from and respond to what happens. Because you can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you respond to it.

Just because you may do something that makes you feel lonely and isolated doesn’t at all diminish the act of doing it and what you learn or how you grow as a person as a result.

Choosing the path less traveled is about finding one’s own way and using what one learns along the journey for the betterment of one’s self (and others).

It is very difficult to not grow while being out of one’s comfort zone. And conversely, very difficult to grow while in one.

And you may just find that you have what you need *within you* to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. You may just find you are a lot stronger and more resilient than you believed. You may just discover you don’t need to rely on others to give you an identity.

And you may also find that you like it that way.

I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” — Olivia Wilde

There is a reason so much ancient wisdom revolves around knowing thyself.

It is very difficult to truly know one’s self if all one has ever done is what they’ve seen others do.

It is very difficult to know one’s self if one has never spent a prolonged period of time alone in one’s thoughts and away from the influence of family, friends, mass marketing, and the media.

And it is very difficult to grow stronger without resistance. And you don’t get so much of that following a crowd as you do by plotting your own path from time to time.

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“Dude, are you homeless?”

“Dude, are you homeless?”

It was an unexpected question from a friend I made recently. And I denied it. I didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t ready for it.

It’s an especially tricky question to answer because homelessness has such a stigma. And it shouldn’t, because every person and every person’s story is different.

(How much do we judge the homeless just by looking at them — without ever knowing their story?

I know that’s something I’ve been guilty of. And although I’m interested in their stories, I never have the courage to ask.)

I don’t consider myself “homeless”, per se, but if I am, I volunteered.

My journey from beginning to now is documented extensively on my site ( | Intro | Backstory), but here’s a summary…

In 2009, I quit my job as a Senior Artist at Rockstar Games, terminated the lease for my apartment, and sold or donated everything I own.

(I say “sold everything”, but I mean everything I couldn’t fit in my car. I do have a small storage unit in Las Vegas where I keep super important things like a really cool garlic press, a coffee grinder, and a really fast desktop PC that I bought in 2007. I can’t wait to boot that bad boy up.

I used to store about a dozen gym towels there, but I really couldn’t live without those.

There’s other stuff in my storage unit, but every time I visit it, I always surprise myself with what I sold and what I kept back then. The “Great Purge” happened so quickly that it’s hard for me to remember what survived.

One day I had a lot of stuff. A couple weeks later I didn’t. And while the stuff I kept is apparently stuff I didn’t think I could ever live without, it turns out I was wrong. Well, except for my gym towels. I was totally right about those.

So it’s a lot like Christmas morning every time I make my way to Vegas and I see what I actually still own.

“OMG, this is like the best garlic press ever!”

Although sometimes as I dig through boxes I’m like, “I kept this!? Why the hell did I keep this?”

It’s funny how what we give value to can change when we spend some time without it.)

So I quit my job, terminated my lease, and sold everything.

Then, as I was about to embark on my journey, something came up (with a friend) and I went and lived with him for 9 months.

This 9 months gave me time to “enhance” my pending adventure.

What was originally going to be a personal journey — some traveling, some photography, some writing — became a project that I would share with others around the world via the Internet.

I wanted to use the experience to connect with people in a meaningful way — not something that’s terribly common through social media.

And then in 2010 my real journey began.

I became part of a real-life choose-your-own adventure — criss-crossing the country and letting people tell me where to go, who to meet, and what to do.

I posted live updates. Let people follow me in real-time on a map using GPS. Accepted personal challenges and more. (ZDXPedia list of challenges and requests)

It was self-funded, so I slept in my car each night as a way to conserve resources.

(I sought out sponsors, but never found one. I guess sponsors kind of have to find you. And aside from being approached by 3 reality TV casting directors, making a couple TV appearances, and being written about in Spirituality & Health magazine, I mostly flew under the radar. And I mostly still do.)

Since I rarely spent more than a couple nights in one place, and covered nearly 60,000 miles in the process, sleeping in my car made sense.

Hotels or even just campsites are expensive. I could have tried couchsurfing, but didn’t because I had a tricky time keeping a schedule or knowing where each day would lead me. And I have to admit, I really, really liked the turn-on-a-dime freedom I had.

But even without the need to pay for lodging, all the driving I was doing still made my adventure very expensive. Not to mention other expenses like food.

As my project (and travels) essentially came to an end about 18 months later, I continued using social media to share my ongoing experience. I had an audience that was still interested in what I was posting — and I’d made some great friends, too. So why not keep doing it?

But because my travels ended, I had to find other things to write about. This is when I started focusing more on humor & entertainment mixed with the occasional life lesson I’d learned. Though the process was sort of gradual.

And then, somewhere along the way, I made it official — I would voluntarily live in my car for 1,000 days. I’d already been doing this, but simply set an end date as a challenge and incentive to go on. Since my cross country travels had ended, it was a way to sort of reframe my adventure.

This became my personal “1,000 days of discomfort challenge” and an extension of something I desired when I started my journey — which was to intentionally push myself beyond my comfort zone as a means for personal growth.

It’s just that somewhere along the way 1,000 days turned into 5 years (this May).

I have volumes of things I could say about this experience, and occasionally it comes out in my posts (I mostly write about what I learn from my experiences, not what I lived through to learn them), but in short, it’s been interesting, it’s been hard, and it’s been rewarding.

But, I don’t want to do it forever.

But until I stop, I continue to learn valuable things. And I share these things with people who follow me.

And I do other things on the side (photography, art…). But mostly, I try to do some good.

Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. I went to my car to do the same thing.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau

It worked for him. It’s working for me.

And when I finally give my TED talk for real one day, some folks who don’t get it will have a bit more understanding.

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You’re not perfect nor expected to be.

  • “I’m such a klutz.”
  • “I’m bad at remembering names.”
  • “I have a tendency to say stupid things.”
  • “I have a crooked nose.”
  • “I don’t have perfect teeth.”

It’s important to realize that other people don’t see you the same way you see yourself.

It’s very possible to have a very low estimation of yourself, your looks, and your accomplishments while also being someone that others look up to and admire.

You may never know who your actions, words, or creations inspire…”

Whatever you may consider your faults, flaws, and imperfections to be, they are nowhere near as clear to other people as they are to you. And the mistakes you make are nowhere near as magnified.

Yes, you may screw up. And you may embarrass yourself in front of others (everyone has done this). And it may seem like the worst thing in the world.

But mistake-makers often have a tendency to hold onto negative thoughts from an embarrassing experience far longer than those who witness or hear about it do.

The key is to move forward in your life with intention and not perpetuate bad feelings by reliving a bad experience over and over again in your head. Thus making it difficult for you or others to forget.

People in your life — especially the friendly ones — are more likely to remember your successes than your failures anyway. Especially because in the same way people don’t see your flaws the same way you do, they don’t see your failures the same way either.

In fact, you may be the only who thinks of something you did as a failure or some aspect of yourself as a flaw.

And those who do want to highlight your mistakes, failures, and flaws in an unsupportive way are very likely not those you want in your life anyway.

Always remember, everyone makes mistakes. And everyone has flaws. Even your heroes.

It’s part of the human experience. *No one* is perfect. And some of the most beautiful and most successful people in the world are insecure about something.

We are *all* a work in progress.

If you want to make progress in your life, push forward in a positive way without reliving and recycling past experiences that inhibit your growth.

Every day is a new opportunity to get things right and be the person you want to be. But you have to be living in the present to do it.

Let go of the past. Today matters. It’s yours. Go get it.

When you truly know who you are — and who you are in the process of becoming — you will no longer live in fear of what people say or think about you.

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Blind optimism

One of the issues with blind optimism is that living your life with blinders on can leave one vulnerable to being exploited by others or simply knocked off balance when something you didn’t see coming happens.

Better to live with your eyes open and acknowledge what you can’t control — while directing your attention to what you can — than to pretend that the things you don’t wish to see don’t exist.

Whatever you focus on grows stronger because energy flows where attention goes.

So focus your attention on what you desire — and what you wish to change — without putting blinders on, and you will be putting energy where you want it, without losing sight of the larger picture.

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