My 4 pillars to a meaningful life

So, I scrapped the original article. I found it to be boring and contrived and not what I wanted to write at the moment. Articles are always tricky and a lot of my process is all about flow. If an article is purely informational, that’s no fun for me to write. Originally, this article was a list where I covered my 4 pillars that I’ve used for the last 7 years to guide my behavior: Spiritual, Social/Emotional, Mental, and Physical. If they sound familiar, that’s because they are. I adopted these pillars at a time when I had no guidance, no direction and they’re based off of Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits for highly Effective People”. But listing my habits and giving advice was too boring. And during a Pandemic, I simply can’t get bored; boredom leads to cabin fever and cabin fever leads to insanity. So I stopped. I wrote about Spiritual and Mental and then I just stopped, wrote another article and said today that it’d just be better to start over. I’ve done lists before but a conversational approach? I’ve also done, but it never gets old.

My final article for this month will be next week and will be a reflection piece. I’m taking a lighter approach this year as my health has drastically improved over the years. Every demon tackled, each new challenge I face is easier than the last or at least, a situation I can handle. A lot of my health, in fact, I owe to my 4 pillars. Originally titled, “My 4 pillars to a happy life”, both titles work in this case. My Sophomore year of College, I fiddled around with the concepts in 7 habits, taking a learn and apply approach. I tried one pillar at a time and while each are great on their own, they only work when practiced together. Spiritual I meditate and find myself in nature. Feeling the grass on my feet, hearing the birds chirp, creeks bubble, and the wind rustle. Spiritual is about being present; that’s all there is to it. It’s about having hope and faith and being content, however you choose to get there. Mental is about knowledge, to which, I am obsessed. I never stop learning. I read, I write, I learn. If the saw is not sharp, then the blade will not cut. It’s about sleep, recharging the battery, and respecting you mind enough to give it a rest. It’s also about respecting your mind by watching what you eat, because let’s face it, you are what you eat. Cliche? Of course. True? Yes, very much. Mental bleeds into physical as your body must be worked. People are lazy and narcissistic and there are many excuses we can make as to why we’re not working out. There’s a reason I was so adamant in expressing the importance of making things fun in “30 days to rule them all” and that’s because we suck at motivation. People don’t like the zig zag that is personal growth, they’d much rather have progress be a straight line. I can say with certainty that I am happier when I work out consistently; even just going on a walk is great. Human beings are not potatoes and we should not be acting as such. Make it fun and the rest will fall in place. Finally, Social and Emotional. During a Pandemic, people are freaking out. I’m not. Why? Because I have this pillar. This pillar is the foundation for healthy relationships, a commitment to making an effort, to be there and show up. I have no time to waste with toxic relationships. To flip back to mental, life is about adaptability. Instead of prioritizing going to workshops, meeting new people and board game nights, I have shifted to video calls, messaging, and my favorite, video games. Chatting with friends while social distancing has been great and while I miss being able to go out, the damage to my health has been mitigated. If you’re not a gamer, I highly recommend it for the social dynamic.

And all these pillars bleed into one another, that is why you can’t pick and choose. If you get enough sleep and eat well, you’ll have more energy to work out, if you work out, sleep, and diet, you’ll be in a better mood to chat with your friends and if you chat with friends you’ll feel great. Spiritual is the glue that gives you breath and reason. So, all connected.


And there you have it, another article for the books. As we wrap up the month of May, I’ll be gearing up for June. This month is a great pause as we take a look at Mental Health. If you’re curious about my other articles, just type “Mental Health” into the search bar. If there are topics you want me to cover, let me know. And if you like my content, consider following, liking, and sharing among your friends. This year we’re already set to surpass 2019 in views and traffic to the website and it is my hope that we surpass 2018, which was my best year for the blog. Also, please consider donating through Ko-fi and subscribing to my Patreon. The Patreon comes with my own discord community server and various tiered rewards to make the subscription fun. At the moment, this is my only source of income, so please consider helping out! Even a dollar means a whole lot. Below is a link to my donation page:

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As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

30 days to rule them all

So we’re stuck inside and even the strongest among us can’t self isolate forever. I’ve been in my house for almost 60 days. I went from going out every weekend to building a Utopian society in Animal Crossing. First 30 days were fine and were treated as a much needed vacation. The last 30 days? Not terrible. 90 days? God help us (But we’re not there, yet…). I have a stockpile of books and games, so it’ll take a long while to get through those. But those are only to keep me busy should I get bored.

So thus, begins my habit forming challenges. The other day I hit my 15th day streak on Playne, a meditation video game. I have an in-game fire that will go out if I miss a day. It is now my sole mission to keep that fire alive. The game itself is fun, I’ve learned a couple different techniques outside of what I learned when I did 9 months of “freestyle” meditation. I also now meditate within a range to help with motivation. If I’m feeling like I don’t have the time (during the middle of a Pandemic) I can do 5 minutes of quick breathing exercises. If I’m extremely stressed, I can do 30 minutes of writing words on paper (or in this case, actually typing in game!). All in all, I’m excited to hit day 30 and then beyond. I’m going to hold myself to at least a year of continuous meditation. Duolingo I’ll hit a two week streak as of today (which is now yesterday, because writing can take a while); I also just started coding through Codecademy. I’ve been coding off and on throughout my life, and I’ve always regretted not hunkering down to learn and fully understand it. I loved lego robotics when I was younger but my life since then has taken a very different path. As I gear up for a Masters in Analytics, I want that to change. I’ll need to know Python and SQL, so I figured now would be the perfect time to learn. 30 days to form the habit, then I’m curious to try the 100 days of code challenge going around. It took a while to find a site that worked for me, but I really enjoy the format of Codecademy from the couple days I’ve done of the free trial.

Full disclaimer, I rounded up; “21 days to rule them all” just doesn’t have as nice a ring to it and honestly, I like giving myself a buffer since I’ve been such a failure at forming habits in the past. So really, it’s just 21 days with 9 bonus days. Now that I’m close to the 21 day mark, I can speak a little more to observations I made at the beginning of the challenge. First couple days were tough. What I decided to do was phased habit iteration. I started with meditation as a base habit I wanted to form and then after a couple days I introduced Language learning, and now coding. In addition, I have tried to make a consistent habit of working out. In fact, let’s transition over to talking about my workout routine during the Pandemic.

There are typically two approaches to working out; structured or integrated. Structured workouts are typically a routine that involve high amounts of discipline and might involve running the same route every day and going to the gym to work out. This works great if you have extraordinary willpower. For everyone else, it is the reason you stop and start working out over and over again. Over the last couple years, I have gone with an integrated approach to working out. What this means is, exercise is integrated as part of your lifestyle and is not a separate activity. My first task was to make exercise fun. This is where most people stop. What I decided to do was to start bouldering; I got a discount through work and started making an effort to go every weekend. The second aspect was making it a goal to go outside once a week, once I started taking public transit, this became much easier (also shout out to Pokemon Go). And the third was to make sure I could work out at home but in a way that didn’t feel forced. So, I bought Ring Fit Adventure. Video Games have never disappointed and ring fit has been no different; it solved the motivation aspect of working out at home. Enough of a workout to break a sweat each time, after 15 days I can say I am more motivated to workout. It also has a resistance building mode I can do while watching TV, which is helping me find new ways to exercise casually. Eventually I can add on more to my workout routine but as long as I have a foundation to come back to, I should be good to go.


And that’s it! This Mental Health Awareness month I wanted to try a slightly different approach As I’ve already gone with the dark and gritty (but beautifully vulnerable). I have a couple more articles planned for the month but those need to go through the editing process (which goes a lot faster when I’m not trying to readjust my sleep schedule). So far the blog has been doing extremely well this year and I’m looking to make this the best year yet! Last year was slow but my goal for this year will be a post every two weeks. It’s what I’ve found to be manageable and I don’t want to get burnt out doing too much at once. As a reminder, if you like my content, please consider leaving a like, follow, and sharing the article among your friends! I also love responding to comments! So far, the response this year has been stellar and the blog is growing, which makes me very excited. If you want to support me as a creator, feel free to donate via Ko-fi or my Patreon. Every dollar helps, especially since I currently don’t have a 9 to 5 job right now!

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Journey’s End: David Vs. Goliath

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain


The story of the underdog. The idea of whether or not you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. Our greatest strengths often become our greatest weaknesses. The more resources we have at our disposal, past a certain point, can often lead to our downfall. Everyone seeks power yet so few know how to wield it once they have it. And even fewer realize that true power is having power and choosing when and when not to use it. It is a balancing act between strength and compassion. There are times to be strong and times to be vulnerable.

It is easy to get caught up in success just as much as it’s easy to get caught up in failure. People who taste victory want more and those who taste defeat want less. The strong tend to trample the weak and people can be poison. Or the weak can act strong and grow bitter as they claw their way to the top, becoming the very evil they sought to stop.

The lonely road

We, as humans, have a tendency to follow those who are similar. Those who are not like us get left behind. The people who need love the most are often those who do not receive and those who need the least often receive the most. If one cannot communicate, weave words into a story, then one cannot be. Everyone roots for the underdog and yet… It is very rare that an underdog succeeds. Those who do, become Goliath, yet those who don’t become dust. So in a sense, it’s a rare perspective and one I’m willing to share.

The lonely mountain

Climbing mountains aren’t easy and I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had just trying to stay alive. College is a time of great excitement yet it can also be a time for great disappointment. And all too often, the experiences build and what once seemed manageable becomes an avalanche.  You’re buried and can’t breathe. You’re trapped. You can dig your way out or you can suffocate. The bright side of moments like these? You have time to reflect. To look yourself in the mirror, and ask, “is this who I want to be”? And for a brief moment you see a better tomorrow, then fear takes over. The, “what if” question. So what do you do? You close your eyes. There is comfort in consistency and there is uncertainty in chaos. Yet few see comfort in consistent chaos. Which there isn’t, so the underdog turns their back on reality and nothing is gained.

My story? I’ve said it enough times and while I could say it over again, with different wording, I won’t. My story is a complex blend much like yours and whatever narrative I once had, I’ve reshaped by not letting others write it. It’s all relative. Hardship to one is a stroll through the park to another. Yet the point is, all that matters is your perspective. If you feel unheard, then you are unheard. And if the other person feels unheard, then they are unheard. The simple solution? Listen. “Seek first to understand, then be understood”. There’s been a common theme since I’ve got to college and that’s been, “Wow, Mike’s such a great listener”. Disclaimer: I wasn’t for the longest time.

Two Ears, One Mouth

Listening is hard and those with the biggest mouths often don’t listen. People love the loudest person in the room. In college people think that automatically makes you the coolest person in the room. But more often than not, those individuals are Assholes.  The best part? Those Assholes don’t even realize they’re Assholes. They rationalize their behavior instead of taking a good look in the mirror. And the worst part? People want to be them. Why? Humans have an innate need to connect and be loved, so it only makes sense. The consequence? People spend a lifetime trying to be something they’re not. The coolest person some might consider a Goliath. And as a Goliath, it is far too easy to overlook the underdog.

Open Mind, Open Door

All too often individuals are closed minded, “I’m right, you’re wrong”. How many times do you ask, “I’m right and you’re also right”. This is not a difficult concept. I like cake and you can also like cake. Yet in practice? A disaster. Yes people are wrong, that’s reality but all too often people refuse to see another point of view. People are stubborn. And what’s worse, is few people find beauty in the differences. There is no reason to talk to anyone if all they do is agree. People grow when they are challenged and while agreeing may reaffirm your values and build confidence, it is disagreement that leads to the best insight. College is a time to challenge and not be a “Yes man”. On the flip side, don’t be an Asshole. Take politics for example. I can say I think Donald Trump is a terrible person and think he represents the worst of America. That’s fine, that’s an opinion. Yet on the flip side I can see why some of my friends can find him appealing and once again, that is their opinion. That’s called respect. See, simple. Is anyone upset? No. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought like this? Yet instead what you get is people pointing the finger instead of trying to understand the reasons why. Another question, “does it matter”? An open mind leads to asking the right question(s) and the best weapon against adversity is kindness.

Bringing it all together

So my idea for this series, “Journey’s End” is to provide a framework that I spent 5 years building for myself. Initially I thought I was simply going to talk about my week and have “Story Time”. But truth be told, I have my journal for that and while I still have crazy adventures, they don’t necessarily make for the best article. So as such, this series will be a random assortment of topics, some weeks giving advice, some weeks telling fun stories, and some weeks mixing the two together. This week I wanted to share my experience being an underdog as I am someone who should’ve dropped out of college long ago. So if there’s a take away, let it be this: If you feel alone, look in the mirror and remember that you will always have yourself, so remember to take care of yourself. If you want to connect with others, listen. And if you want to be understood, don’t be afraid to say how you feel (chances are the other person doesn’t realize you feel this way). And finally, don’t discredit others simply because they have a different opinion.


That’s it. Week 2 of my final term is done! If you have any topics you would like me to cover, now’s the time to ask. Thanks for reading and I hope you found the topic helpful!