Two things that Enneagram 9’s need to know

Photo by Alex

I’ve always been a little skeptical of personality assessments. Knowing thyself is a virtue, there’s no doubt. But I’ve always felt uneasy about the idea of placing a static label on something as seemingly fluid as a personality type.

I’ve especially felt this with the Enneagram. I know that it’s one of the most respected assessments among many — especially in mystical Christianity (Fr. Richard Rohr, one of my favorite mystics, has devoted much of his work to it).

As I’ve written about before, I register as a 9 (‘The Peacemaker’).

Maybe you know what I’m talking about when I say that there’s a special kind of existential dread when you read about your type. There seems to be an emphasis on shortcomings with Enneagram typing. In my case, the ‘Peacemaker’ can quickly devolve into a ‘people-pleaser’ or ‘pushover’.

They have my number, those Enneagram people (literally).

As I’ve long seen it, sure, sometimes I feel like a 9. I generally disdain conflict and obsess over creating harmony in my environment. But there are plenty of times (particularly on this blog, but also in-person) where I get fired up and call people out on their nonsense. I’d even say I have a bit of a temper (not a good thing) under certain external and internal conditions. That’s never seemed very 9 of me…

Anyhow, I was at the gym the other day, searching for a podcast to listen to when I came across an Enneagram typology podcast called The Enneagram Journey hosted by a lady who brings people of different ‘types’ on the show to chat with them about life. I scrolled down to type-9 and listened.

What I heard blew me away (hence the reason I write this to you, dear fellow 9 — or someone who knows/loves one)…

First of all, I learned about my 8-wing (‘The Challenger’) which explains my dark, firey underbelly (okay, I thought, so maybe this whole Enneagram thing was more accurate than I’d thought).

But what stopped me dead on my tracks (or, on my seat in the rowing machine) was this…

The host mentioned what she called the ‘two messages’ (1) the ‘lost childhood message’ and (2) the ‘unconscious childhood message’ (she referenced this book if you find this interesting).

The unconscious childhood message is a message that you picked up in childhood that motivates you but you don’t need to know where you got it. The lost childhood message is a message that you needed but you didn’t get.

She said that, in her opinion, the type for whom the two messages have been the most costly is for 9’s. And here’s what she said ours are…

  1. The unconscious message for 9’s is it’s not okay to assert yourself.
  2. The lost unconscious message is your presence matters.

If you’re a 9, this might be hitting home for you in a big way. I know it did for me.

I heard so often — from my teachers, friends, parents, etc. — that it was not okay to assert myself.

And if you’re not a 9, you might have heard the same thing. But you didn’t absorb it as much as we 9’s did.

(See, I’m starting to see Enneagram typology as an internal filtering mechanism. My filter lets certain things in that yours might not.)

And for me, when I was told — or when people insinuated — that I was not to assert myself, I shriveled up and submitted to them. And I’ve been doing it unconsciously ever since (but not now — thanks awesome Enneagram podcast lady*).

Hearing that my presence matters is like lighter fluid to my internal flame. Seriously. It’s necromantic in its effects.

And so, there you have it. For all the 9’s out there, I hope this kicks open some doors and lets a nice, refreshing, enlivening breeze through your soul as it did for me.

*Her name is Suzanne Stabile and you can read about her here.

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I am a multipotentialite

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Conventional internet wisdom (yes, we’re making this a thing) tells us to find a niche. I’ve even touted this sentiment myself. However, I think I’ve fallen into the same misunderstanding that many others have, which is that this notion means that we must all be specialists.

Come to find out, that’s not it at all (more on this in a sec).

However, in my previous ignorance, I jumped into the shoes of one specialty after another trying to find the right fit. I went all-in on being one thing. And then the other thing. And then…

As soon as one started to feel comfy in one pair of shoes, I’d get… Uneasy. Or bored. Or claustrophobic.

If you can relate, you’re likely a polymath. A renaissance person. A multipotentialite, as Emilie Wapnick calls us.

We like different stuff. And that’s awesome. We can even make a living doing this today.

We polymaths can smoosh our interests together and make a living by serving a certain subset of humanity who cares.

I mentioned Emilie Wapnick because it was her TEDx talk (I’m a couple years late — sorry, Emilie) that made me realize I’m one of them. I’m a multipotentialite. I can’t get myself into a neat and tidy package no matter how hard I try. And I guess that’s perfectly fine (even though I still can’t answer that question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”).

Ahhhhh. My shoulders loosened so much on that discovery. When I looked at my most important work — this very publication — it was as clear as day: I like to write about… Life. And life involves seemingly random stuff. But it all kind of works out. And people seem to like it (matter of fact, I just learned that it’s the #1 single-author publication on Medium, which I’m still processing).

I can be me. All of me. And I can serve you in a way that no one else does, as random as that may be.

I can write about spirituality and creativity and business and writing and my kid and my beard and love and poetry and… Yeah.

Somewhere in the middle of all that is a thing. A life. A life that, I’m sure, I’m not alone in. A life that you can relate to and glean wisdom and insight and LOLZ from — if even a little bit.

We only need a few to serve. The ones as weird as us.

Jesus only had twelve. Look how that turned out. (Maybe good — maybe bad — depending on how you see it.)

So, if you’re a multipotentialite, welcome. We’re kindred souls.

Know that niching down and finding your tribe does NOT necessarily mean specialization (although, it can).

So go forth, share wildly, and serve deeply.

And when they roll their eyes and say, Well, THAT was random, you can smile and say… Yeah… Thanks…

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Are you listening?

Image: Ben White

We’re a talking bunch of people. Even the ‘quiet’ ones — their internal dialogue is often louder than the spoken words of the ‘louder’ ones.

We’re always saying something. To ourselves. To each other. On social media. Or texts.

Even when we think we’re ‘listening’, we’re often actually interpreting — laying our viewpoint over that of which we’re ‘listening’ to — or thinking of the next thing to say.

But to listen — to really listen — means to listen with our whole heart and being, in order to be totally present to the moment.

How’s your inner-ear muscle working? No, not the thing that gets infected when you’re a kid (or, unfortunately for some, an adult) — I’m talking about the focus that tunes in to our inner world. With this, we dial in to our inner guidance — to the ‘still, small voice’ that lurks within.

This is wisdom. We’re not talking about ‘smarts’ here. This has nothing to do with scantron machines, number two pencils, or IQ. Wisdom is the deep underflowing of universal intelligence that resides in us all. Thing is, most ‘smart’ people are so into their own personal intelligence that they do things like say hurtful, degrading things and admit being a sexual predator while the microphone is on and it comes back to haunt them years later when they’re running for the highest office in the United…

Stop, Jonas. Back it on up… Listen, remember?

Ok, we’re good…

In today’s world, listening to the wisdom that surrounds us in every moment is like a secret weapon. Stop the mental chatter to feel the sensations in your body. Feel those urges in your heart. Know that certainty in your stomach.

It’s a daily practice, well worth the effort. No one, hardly, is doing this right now. Everyone’s talking.

Do you hear them?

Now, do you hear You?


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Why the ‘just be yourself’ rhetoric is kinda bullsh*t

Image: Yury Orlov

Imagine something…

You are you, just as you are right now… Forever.

Sound soul-fulfilling? Life-affirming?

Right… Me neither.

Listen, I get it. I’m a huuuge believer in acceptance. Huge. Loving yourself is one of the most spiritually empowering things you can do.

But I also know there’s something in me (which, I’m guessing is in you too) that propels me forward. That tells me that the person I used to be is someone I don’t really care to be any longer.

It’s not that I was some kind of horrible guy. It’s not that I don’t love and accept that past version(s) of myself. I understand that the old Jonas lived the way he did based on what he understood at the time.

But I can also see that, in the future, I want to be in a better place. I want to be able to give more. I want to have more time to offer to loved ones. I want to enjoy life more than I do now. I want to deepen my relationships and tend to my friendships better. I want to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.

Is there anything wrong with accepting myself while wanting more? I don’t think so.

Progress is the soul of the universe.
DeChardin

Progress. Just. Is.

We’re expanding. Always have been. Always will be.

To infinity and beyond.
-Buzz Lightyear

The more we accept ourselves while saying yes to what is to come, the more we welcome this expansion instead of resisting it (and I think we all know how much it hurts to fight it).

Digging my heels in to the current version of me and stubbornly staying the same doesn’t seem too awesome. Or realistic.

Say yes to what-is. Fall head-over-heels in love with what-is. But never close yourself off to your innate expansion.

It’s a delicate dance. One can easily mistake acceptance for complacence. The ‘just be yourself’ maxim can easily keep one stuck in their outmoded, limited, restrictive ways of being in the world.

Acceptance and complacence are two totally different things.

Like the great Reverend Michael Beckwith recently said, “Shed some baggage and embrace a higher frequency.”

Look towards expansion and greater good while loving the sh*t out of the world in front of your nose like it’s the best thing ever.

One of the best prayers in the world consists of one word…

Yes.


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Your best marketing is… You

Image: Clem Onojeghuo

During the fantastical stretch of time between 1860–1998, you could pay advertisers a gajillion dollars to craft you a contrived flawless brand image and broadcast it to the masses. Your money went in one end and even more money came out the other.

It was a flawless model. Brilliant, in fact.

So, in turn, most every ‘successful’ business was filled with largely faceless corporate heads who checked the right boxes, got the job done, and didn’t worry much about their humanity (because their flawless persona had already been created, bought, and sold by the mad men).

And then came the internet. Now, small-town rules are back.

More and more of us own our work now. Even employees (who own what they do and sell it to their one customer — their employer).

We’re all on camera these days. Even if you think you’ve escaped from social media and the digital world by not buying a smartphone with a camera, everyone else has one (that will eventually be trained on you).

Back in the day, if the butcher was a jerk or if he sold spoiled meat, you went to the butcher down the road or in the next town after telling your friends about him at the town hall.

It pays to be a well-adjusted human. Always has. Except for the small, necessary blip of time that was the industrial revolution which created a veritable fantasy land where we could fake our humanity for a short while.

Not hating on it here. It made us pretty rich (I love my TV, indoor plumbing, and even this computer I’m typing on now — thanks, big industry!). But because of the power of the model at the time, we went against ourselves in a lot of ways.

Now, however, we’re back. The internet has largely returned us to the way humans work.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Big industry is never going away (and it’s extremely useful if constructed consciously). It’s just way more expensive and far less reliable now to put all your money into marketing/advertising while being a shitty person, screwing over your customers, and doing horrible work. That might work in the short term, but it has adverse effects on well-being (our inner-GPS tends to scream, ‘REROUTING, REROUTING’ over and over again when we live this way) and our business (like I said, we’re all under scrutiny now).

Your best marketing is you. Getting your head right, tapping into your creative superpowers, being generous, knowing yourself, doing work that matters, enjoying the many other aspects of life, will allow the world to beat a path to your stand-up desk.

The camera is rolling. We can see you. But can we trust you? Do we have faith in you? Are we inspired by you?

We want to shake hands and BS with the baker (but not too much, because we’re busy). We want you to stay mentally/physically/spiritually healthy so you can open the doors tomorrow. The innate love you bring to what you do is effectual. We’re drawn to it.

Separating ourselves from our work is harder than ever. This can be stressful. Or it can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

I’d recommend choosing the latter.


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Let the moment in

Image: JOHN TOWNER

Label it. 
Figure it out. 
Define it. 
Be correct about it.

Why do we strive so hard to do this?

We get the new job...

The first day, it’s nice. People are nice enough. The schedule fits. We enjoy the work.

But then, a certain part of us seeks out threats.

Oh, he’s a jerk. 
She’s a braggart. 
They get together with their friends every Tuesday night and gossip about everyone. 
My boss is conniving, incapable control-freak.

Layer after layer after layer, our process thinking covers up the moment with a story that we buy into from the prehistoric part of our psyches that may have kept us safe generations ago (or as kids), but only inhibit us today.

Why do we allow that teeny tiny part of our being to keep the vastness of this moment out?

We’re alive. And if, as in the above example, we’re working — we’re probably pretty healthy too. We have clean water to drink. We have indoor plumbing. We have free/cheap internet and Netflix and a ton of clothes in the closet and most — if not all — of our senses are functioning.

We have zero. Excuses.

We’ve essentially won the lotto. All of us reading this right now (and me, writing it).

But we stare at it and piss it away because we let the stubborn, shortsighted, and petty part of ourselves lead our lives.

Why? 
It feels ‘right’. 
We feel ‘correct’ when we ‘call it’…

See… I knew he wasn’t to be trusted. Proved me right.

Now what? Another solidified, dysfunctional belief that has consumed us. It may have guarded us against ‘him’, but meanwhile, it’s closed us off to the magic happening in the background.

I’m being a bit harsh here... But I look around and see so much of this going on.

You experience what you’re open to. Take conscious control of the reins of your mind and see the good in your situation. I guarantee there’s a ton of it.

Let the moment in.

Right where you are, reading this. Take a glance away from this page and breathe the only breath of your life that matters — the one coursing through you right now.

How many more will there be? Maybe three? Maybe a million? It doesn’t really matter, but it does.

This moment right now — if fully taken in — can change your life.

Open up to it. Surrender to it. Feel its perfection in every part of your being. This is truth.

Nothing in your outside world has to change. Just one step across the distorted perception of your ego and into this divine moment can show you on a molecular level all it has to offer. This is all it can take to change the rest of your life going forward.

This ever-present moment is a transformational one. If we allow it to be.


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Why don’t you give me the answers?

Image: Marek Novotný

I get this email occasionally from readers…

Nice post, but why don’t you lay out a clear solution?

People are always looking for more answers. New, shiny answers that they can pop onto their lives like brand new hubcaps.

The internets are full of them. Everyone seems to have the answer in internetland. All kinds of them — red ones, blue ones, camo ones...

But get this...

The only useful answers are the ones that uncover the answers that already lie within.

I’m in the business of removing the erroneous noises from your head to reveal the answers that are already present. If you can get still enough and trust yourself enough, you’d find they’re there — no Google search needed.

I know that I’m being slightly hypocritical here. This post, after all, is a form of an answer, much like the rest of my daily posts. But hopefully it’s one that doesn’t add anything to the dung heap of answers piled on your Truth. Hopefully it hands you a big-ass shovel to help you clear the weeds and allow for the healthy plants to grow.

We should spend less time seeking answers and more time removing them.

There is nothing to add. Only to subtract.


Jonas Ellison is a transformational coach and writer who helps people find their Mojo using spiritual, philosophical, psychological, and practical tools. To get his short vignettes in your inbox daily, click here.

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Why I don’t want a huge personal brand

Image: Vladimir Kudinov

For years, I worked as a marketing strategist and copywriter building other people’s brands. Funnels. Squeeze pages. Opt-ins. Opt-outs. Sales pages. Video sales letters. Email campaigns. You name it.

I understand the mindset and mechanics behind it all. I’ve done a lot of it behind the scenes, very successfully for others. Yet, if you’ll notice, I haven’t really applied it myself.

If you look at my website, it’s pretty simple. My Facebook page isn’t ‘optimized’. I’ve deleted my LinkedIn account. I don’t have any fancy certifications. My main ‘marketing’ technique is sharing free, valuable content every single day here and the occasional personal note to my email list.

So why, if I understand the ways of building a big personal online brand, don’t I do it?

I want to forever be personally approachable.

Unless you’re an asshat, there’s a 90% chance I WILL respond to your email/response/note. And I hope to always be able to do that.

I don’t ever want to be larger than life. I don’t want to be on Oprah (sorry I haven’t called ya back, O — just kidding, she… hasn’t… actually… called… never mind).

My coaching practice is based on 1-on-1 powerful conversations. The only thing my clients care about is one thing — if I can help them shift their mindset to reach their goals while living more tranquil lives.

This model suits me perfectly. I hardly ever talk about it here for a couple reasons…

For one, I really can’t work with more than a handful of people at a time. Also, I understand that what I have to offer — higher end coaching — isn’t for the masses.

Now, I’d be a total hypocrite if I said your personal brand wasn’t important AT ALL. I am, after all, writing this on Medium, in public, hoping a jillion people read it. Having a personal brand is extremely important. It’s just that it’s easy to get seduced by the big, sexy, shiny epic brands of the big internet celebrities thinking you need THAT before you start your work.

Just because it seems everyone is building a huge online brand doesn’t mean it’s a requirement.

As a matter of fact, sometimes it pays to zig while others zag. Maybe you should think small, private, and boutique than larger-than-life. Or not.

My advice here isn’t for everyone. If my model was based around a digital product where I’d have to sell a jillion of them to make a living, I’d probably reconsider.

But that’s not me. And self-awareness is the most essential thing in business (besides the other ‘most essential’ things in business, of course).

If you’ve read this and still would like to build a huge personal brand, I wish you the best. But as for me, I’ll be keeping things low-key and focusing in on the thing I do best — one post, and one conversation, at a time.


Jonas Ellison is a coach and writer who helps people find their Mojo and dismantle their self-imposed limitations using spiritual, philosophical, psychological, and practical tools. To get his short vignettes in your inbox daily,click here.

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On sharing your work and the shifting surface-self

Image: Zach Inglis

Check this scenario and tell me if you’ve been here…

You want to share a story/opinion of yours. Online, perhaps. Or in a book, etc.

So you start writing. Things are going great. You’re on fire about it. This thing you’re writing is it. You see visions of your work being up there with the likes of Martin Luther and Emily Dickinson. As you deem it, you’re writing your magnum opus.

It keeps you up at night. While you’re hanging out with friends and family, you’re often caught staring reflectively into the distance as you ponder what lines are to come. This thing consumes you.

You get it in really good shape. You consider sharing it. But you hold off. You really want to polish it into the fine gem that it is.

Another month goes by — maybe more. You add some here and there. Chip some pieces away. Tinker with it.

And then, it happens…

One day, you wake up. You have your coffee. Do your thing. Head over to the work. Fire up the laptop. And it’s then and there that you realize…

Holy shit. The thrill is gone.

As you read it, it’s like reading someone else’s work.

This can’t be happening. You walk away from it. Maybe you’re burned out. So a couple days goes by — no, you’ve never spent this long away from it before, but this time, you’re fine without it. You go back, ready to dig in. And it happens again...

Nothing. Flatline. Your baby is dead. What… Happened?

I’ll tell you what happened. You changed. Or, the entity that you identified with so heavily during the creation process — yet another version of your surface-self — has faded into someone else.

We do this all the time. Our surface-self is ever-changing. Being a daily blogger, it’s extremely apparent in my work. I change constantly.

Like I said, the thing that always changes is the surface-self. Our personas.

We play the star of many different main characters throughout our life. This is okay. It’s the nature of the game. But who we really are is the background that sits behind and witnesses our surface-selves act out these different dramas. When you identify with that changeless role, your creativity will flourish. You’ll be sitting in the director’s chair instead of being blinded by the spotlight.

You’re playing with these personas now. You’re holding the strings. You can have fun with it now. This is a great place to be, creatively.

Going back to the whole thrill-is-gone thing, it’s easy — especially if you aren’t aware of what’s going on — to become frustrated with this. You can easily reach a point where you just want to give up. You can start to feel like your story holds no solid ground.

This is okay. It’s the way it is. Share it anyways. If you feel called to share your story/truth/idea, just do it. But do it quickly. Because you will change. You will evolve. If you wait, it will die. And your current-time truth will never see the light of day. What a shame that would be.

Be okay with being a living contradiction. Find peace in your shapeshifting nature. This is what makes life interesting. Just know that what matters is that you shared your truth. Fully. Unabashedly. Well-aware and unafraid of the shifting nature of the surface-self.


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Hard-wired drama queens

Image: Brandon Couch

Max pushed me.”

It’s what Rory says on a near daily basis when she comes home from preschool before showing me all of her battle wounds from a hard day’s play.

The first time I heard it, I went into full-on protective father mode. Yes, I even emailed the lady who runs the preschool (I did it in good taste, c’mon now…). A certain part of me wanted to meet Max after school in the alley and whoop his little ass. But then I realized... Shit... He’s 3.

When it happened the second time, I noticed something. Rory wasn’t distraught when she told me. And thinking back, she wasn’t the first time either. She was kinda smiley about it. She had a little gleam in her eye. But then she added to the story by telling me how she fell off her bike.

The third day, it was the same story — starting by pointing out her scrapes and bruises followed by tattling on Max and then the whole falling-off-my-bike bit — but she added another element... The cat bit her. Yes, a scary cat (she even acted it out with her hands like claws and her teeth like fangs).

The story about Max grew in subsequent evenings to epic stories of how, afterwards, she pointed her finger at him and said, “Max — don’t PUSH me! That’s NOT nice!” (Yes, I taught her this.)

It’s then that I realized... She’s already a drama queen. Hell, why am I isolating this to her? We’re all hard-wired drama queens.

When I hear two people talking and their tone reverts from peaceful chit-chat to talking about a conflict of some sort — FOMO immediately kicks in. I want to find out what the drama is. And when it happens to me, I can’t WAIT to tell someone about it (or write about it here).

Is it ego? Is it bad? Is it good? I don’t know. I just wish you’d stop pushing me.


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Acceptance: Damn, it feels nice

Image: Andrew Ridley

As crappy as it was, growing up in poverty was a ripe environment for big, crazy, audacious dreams to sprout and grow. I remember wanting to someday have so much damn money — I’d never be held back from the freedom that I believed monetary wealth would bring me.

Sometimes us poor kids make it huge. You see the stories. Rockefeller. Carnegie. Bieber. Lil’ Wayne… But others, as in my case thus far, do not.

It’s been weird, this life. Going from being 12 years old with that unbridled desire to make a bunch of money to realizing that I’m now in my late-30’s and it might not ever happen, did my head in for a while.

I know what you might be saying…

You’re not THAT old. Don’t give in that easy, Jonas. Maybe you’ll make it. (Or maybe you’re telling me to stop bitching like an entitled a$$hole…)

But now I see that it’s also probably not the point.

Coming into acceptance that I may never be wealthy beyond measure feels really nice right now. I don’t feel like such a f*ck-up. I have a pretty great life.

Sure, we stretch it month-to-month. Money gets tight. We have to hustle.

But I’ve come a long way in dropping my father’s well-intentioned expectations (c’mon men, you know what I’m talking about).

Being solid with where I am right damn now (with half an eye on the step ahead). This is how you climb huge mountains. This is where I want to operate.

Leaps of faith are healthy. But we must be diligent. Having delusions of grandeur of quantum leaping over a gaping abyss of life circumstance just beats the shit out of you after awhile.

Unreached expectation after unreached expectation becomes an evil pattern that bruises your soul.

What feels good to me at this juncture is making a healthy living from creative work. Being able to pay the bills and sock away a few months extra in the bank. Being able to pick up and go anywhere with the fam or by myself to some dark place in the woods for a few days.

This is a leap that is challenging and interesting enough, but is within total reach.

Acceptance. This feels really good.

After all, isn’t this the point?


More bits and bops from Jonas Ellison

Life as a question mark

This photo has nothing to do with this post. But I don’t think you’ll blame me for using it.. (Image: Matthew Wiebe)

What’s life like for an exclamation mark? Probably loud. Concrete. Unchanging. Foot-stomping. Headstrong.

How ‘bout a question mark? Seems open. Wanting more. Curious. Full of inquiry. Doors, leading to hallways, leading to more doors, leading to more hallways.

I suppose life could be fun as an exclamation mark. You see a lot of people living exclamation mark-driven lives online and in the media these days.

But I think living as a question mark sounds more interesting.


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The copyeditor vs. the author

Image: Dariusz Sankowski

The inner-copyeditor sees the world as a huge wall of text that needs to be edited. It feels like its job on the planet is to correct, change, and manipulate the world into a less messed-up place. It gets caught up in the minutiae of life and tries to finagle the fine print into a more agreeable state.

After ramming my forehead into this wall a few times, I’ll reach the point where I realize that I need to stop… chill out… take a deep breath… and detach. It’s at this time when I step back and see that sometimes I just have to conjure my inner-author, crumple this bitch up, and start a whole new draft.

Copyediting is fine. It has its place. It’s something our brains are wired to do. But when it becomes too much and my eyes begin to bleed from cutting/pasting/deleting/blue-screening, I have to remind myself to detach, step away, take a huge breath, and see the world as a big ole’ blank page waiting to be scribbled on. If I could rewrite the whole damn story — not just rearrange the existing words — what story would I write?

Might be a good one.


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The movement of your life

Image: Samuel Zeller

It’s easy to see life as a series of destinations (goals)which are created and worked towards. Like stops on a train, each one is unique, but left behind as the train moves towards the next one.

We’re such a goal-oriented society here in the US, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the constant goal-setting and chill out a bit.

This is what writing does for me. It forces me to take stock of the movement of my life that’s happening right now. My job on these daily postings is to notice things and explain them to you. This makes me move through my world differently. With open eyes.

What’s the current pulse? What am I up to en-route to the next goal? Why not just look out the window of the cabin and check out the scenery in front of me right now?

Each goal — each stop — is just a blip in time. The majority of our life is spent flying down the rails. If we don’t take note of the biggest part of the journey — the part that’s happening right now — it’ll just… pass us by.

What future do you belong to?

https://unsplash.com/erichuang78910


Kind of an interesting way to frame it, isn’t it?

The future can be an elusive thing. We don’t like to think about it too much. Stresses us out.

It’s so much easier to just stay in this little comfort zone of ours and keep chuggin’ along.

You know… Nose to the grindstone, baby. Play it safe.

Ugh. Gag me with a spatula. Please.

Do yourself a favor. Take an hour to sit down alone and do this work. You’ll thank me later…

We humans perform incredibly well when we dedicate our lives to something bigger than ourselves.

In that theatre of your mind, as you’re sitting down, see the exact future that’s worthy of You. Not the small, fearful, hesitant you. But the Big You who knows no limitation.

That’s who I’m talking to right now.

Dedicate yourself to a future picture that’s worthy of you.

This vision must achieve two things…

  1. It’s realistic — If you’re a short 50-year-old overweight CPA who’s been sitting at a desk for the last 30 years, your vision of playing in the NBA might be a bit of a stretch. Keep it real. Seeing yourself as a healthier, happier, more fulfilled version of you — that’s what I’m talking about. You gotta believe it. It’s impossible to bullsh*t yourself.
  2. It’s scary — Not a bad kind of scared. Not a scared that makes you shrink in terror. But the kind of scared that brings an evil grin to your face. A moment-before-the-roller-coaster-takes-off kind of scared. This is the good stuff.

Enlist all 5 or 6 senses to build this future in your mind.

So sit down and see it. Feel it. Taste it.

It helps to write it out. Journal about it. You can even sketch it or clip pictures out of a magazine that go along with the vision. These things make it more concrete than just thinking about it.

Then… (Ready?)

Surrender yourself to it.

You’ve created this thing — this vision of the future — that’s bigger than you. (Also know that it will be an evolving thing.)

Now, you just have to lean back and let it draw you towards it.

Feel it pulling? Good. Don’t fight it.

Jump in. Commit to it. Lay down your old life for it.

What future do you belong to?

Living any other future is an injustice.


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The one thing you owe us


It can seem that everyone wants a piece of you. Your boss. Your better half. Your government. Your friends. Your enemies. All of them seem to line up asking what you’ve done for them lately.

But especially immediate family. Namely, your spouse, parents, and kid(s).

‘How can I make them happy?’ becomes the name of the game. What must we sacrifice next to bring smiles to their faces and peace to their worlds?

What I’ve found is this: The only thing you owe them is you. The whole you.

When you start chipping away at your wholeness, you become less of yourself. And you end up robbing both you and them… of you.

It starts with our parents. Then it continues when we get married. And it’s amplified when we have a kid. Each stage of life, we lose sight of what makes us whole.

You owe the world your wholeness. That’s it.

Do you still have that swagger you had when you picked her up for your first date?

Do you still hold those strong opinions of yours even after your dad ridiculed you in front of the house guests after sharing them?

Do you still have that life-affirming, energizing hobby you had before she was born?

Do you still enjoy making people laugh after that one guy heckled you? And that other guy? And that one gal?

As much as these things may seem to take away from the ones you love, just know that this is you. The real you. Any lesser version of yourself you bring to the world is a cheapened version. Do they deserve that?

If you’ve forgotten this, here’s your reminder. If they’ve forgotten this, you may want to remind them.


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Joy is more frightening than pain

Pain is familiar. We get it. We experience it often.

Sure, pain hurts. But often, we use it as a crutch, or a guiding light. It’s actually quite comfy in a weird, masochistic way.

But joy… Joy is frightening because we know it can lead to utter disappointment.

Joy takes us up a high flight of stairs and hangs us off the edge.

We can fall off the third or fourth step, no problem, but when joy takes us to the fourteenth or fifteenth floor, we begin to get queasy. We start looking for exit plans. Fire escapes. Laundry chutes. Those big air cushions like in the movies. Anything.

We know that people get maimed or killed when falling from this high.

We have... To get... Back down...

But what if we knew we could fly?

What if we stared our mortality in the face with a smirk and allowed joy to keep taking us higher… and higher… and even higher?

What if we conjured the immortal place in us that wants us to choose joy every single time in spite of this world’s limitations?

https://unsplash.com/jsclick


We must overcome our fear of heights so we can choose joy no matter how high it might take us.


It’s this fear of heights that brings us back down to the ground floor. Time and time again.

Well… Here we are again. I’m headed back up. No matter how far it might drop me. You coming with?

Grab those wings and let’s go…


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Pain and suffering

The body experiences pain. You’re sitting in the bleachers. In a split second, as you’re reaching for another nacho, the bat breaks and the splintered hunk of hickory comes flying a hundred miles an hour at your face. That’s going to hurt. Maybe even for a while.

Our emotions experience pain too. People are cold sometimes. Some folks make no qualms about leaving a trail of emotional devastation wherever they go. It can be hurtful to be caught up in their wake.

Pain happens. It’s part of this human experience. That other person will treat you like you’re a joke. You may miss payroll. Your art might not sell.

You will fall off your bike as you learn to ride it. The gravel against your knees hurts. No way around it.

But the mind is the only thing that can experience suffering. It’s a volitional thing. With our minds, we can choose to prolong the pain with suffering.

https://unsplash.com/drew_hays


Pain happens. Suffering is a choice.


Suffering is a result of us not being with our pain. When we don’t sit present with our pain and let it release — when we constantly try to move away from it — we delay its departure, and we suffer.

The only way out of our pain is through it.

Sometimes we suffer on purpose (even if we don’t want to admit it to ourselves). It adds to our story. It can be a defense mechanism. Playing the victim is sometimes more comfortable than taking responsibility.

Suffering can be a mighty fine mask or crutch.

But we can’t escape the fact that our soul wants only to connect with life. It needs to feel the pain so it can get its healing hands on it to massage it away.

If we keep running from it — if we keep ignoring the pain — it never heals, and it continues, along with our suffering.

Feel the pain fully but choose not to suffer. This is the jam.


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You’re never off the path

Even in moments (or days, or years, or lifetimes) when you feel you’ve lost your footing, it’s okay.

This is still the path.

You haven’t gone off track (although it may feel like it). You’re just taking a different route than expected. One that may seem weird because it’s different than the one your neighbor is on.

Some days are perfect. You fly through mountain trails overlooking expansive valleys under the bluest of skies.

Eventually, you’ll deviate… The trees will start closing in on you. You’ll look around and you’ll feel disoriented. You’ll see no clear way out. And the sun will start setting.

https://unsplash.com/mkwlsn


If we’re aware enough, we can use our darkest moments to begin a new era of light.


When we’re aware of it (and eventually, we will be, even if life has to bring us to our knees first) we can use these moments as platforms to launch off of. These times when we stop and realize that we’re being our ugliest, rudest, most vile selves can turn into moments of greatness — moments of growth.

Because it’s during these moments that we realize we don’t ever want to be here again.

And even though we may not find our way out the first, second, third, or hundredth time, we know where we no longer want to stay. And each fall back into the darkness amplifies our urge to climb to greater heights. To not just bounce back, but bounce forward, and stay there.

If we’re aware enough, we’ll start listening to our internal guidance system — our emotions — more. We’ll start enjoying the path more, regardless the outer conditions. We’ll find exhilaration in even the smallest beams of light.

This is the path. It’s not always a flat, steady, perfectly illuminated one. But it’s always under our feet.


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The ball doesn’t know

A golf/life tale

I once had a friend. His name was Bunny. Seriously. That’s what he went by… I’m not sure if that was his actual name. I never pried.

Bunny was a tall, athletic black man with a deep voice. He walked with a confident, relaxed swagger and was one of the nicest people I’d ever met.

He was a cyclist. But he picked up the game of golf. We met at the golf course I worked at years ago.

He played quite a bit. Every time, he’d hound me to play with him.

C’mon, Jone.” Yep. He called me Jone — male version, I guess, of Joan.

Ahhh, Bunny, I wish. But not right now, I gotta work.

Finally, he got me. I had an opening to get off work early and join him. So I took it.

After a few holes, he said, “Damn, Jone. You’re pretty good. Ever thought of going on tour?

Ha! Me? Go on tour? No way, man. I barely ever play. I work too much.

What he said next stopped me in my tracks…

“The ball doesn’t know that.”

Boom. Instant zen moment. Much like the scene in Caddyshack with the famous line, “Be the ball, Danny.” I was Danny Noonan and Bunny was my real life Ty Webb.

The ball doesn’t know that. He was right. It doesn’t. It just sits there and waits for you to hit it.

In golf, the ball has nothing against you. It doesn’t take into account your past. It doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t try to predict what you’re going to do next. It doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t try to read your mind. It just sits there until it’s moved by you.

I’m not sure if you’re a golfer, but if you are, you probably realize that golf is a microcosm of life.

https://unsplash.com/alextalmon


Just like the golf ball that sits nestled in the grass, life doesn’t care who you are or what your story is. It just sits there until you move it.


And then you chase it. And do it again, if you can find it.

What if I told myself a different story? What if I told myself the story that I was good enough at golf to be a tour professional? Would the ball believe me?

Thing is, that’s not the point. The point isn’t to get the ball to believe me much like the point isn’t to get life to believe me.

The point is to get myself to believe me. And then, maybe I can influence life in a way that works better.

Or, I could just hit it in the rough.

Every shot — every breath — is a new chance to decide.


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