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  • Writer's pictureAaron Hendon

How Shit Works

A valued mentor and teacher recently asked me to write what I might say if asked to give a commencement address. What would I tell people, from my own experience, that might provide them with insight and power as they move out into the world?

Here's what I came up with:

  1. Without Integrity, Nothing Works - be truthful and honest with yourself and others - even (especially) when it's uncomfortable. It's only when things are whole and complete that they can work the way they are meant to. And you will ALWAYS know when something is incomplete - sometimes not right away, but it's your job to quiet the noise so you can hear it (and then get it complete). N.B. Entropy is a law—everything always falls apart, so it will take consistent energy input to make and keep things whole.

  2. Love is Not Only the Most Important Ingredient but the Only Ingredient That Really Matters. If love is missing, what's the point?

  3. Nothing Happens to You. Life is happening. It is not happening to YOU. It might be raining, and you might get wet, but it is not raining on YOU. What's happening is what's happening, and you have no say about that. You have EVERYTHING to say about how you operate inside whatever is happening. Complaining about the rain will not stop the rain. Put on a raincoat and get to work.

  4. Be Kind (especially to yourself). Treat everyone (including yourself) like a puppy (if you need a reference point and are a dog person). When faced with a choice, the path of kindness will always lead to better results.

  5. Now is All There is. You will rarely be present here and now. That's the design. It's not a bug; it's a feature. It's how your machine is designed to survive. But one thrives by being responsible for the design, acknowledging it, being kind to it, and establishing practices that leave you reliably connected to the here and now. Hint: This is what meditation is for.

  6.  Everything You Do, You Do Because You Think It Will Make You Happy. You never do anything for any other reason than you think it will bring you happiness. There is no "there" to get that will make you finally happy, by the way. Every single time you get what you thought would make you happy, you will want the next thing. The wanting is inevitable. It comes with the package. It's baked into the machine. Again, it's a feature, not a bug. N.B. Nothing will make you happier than being of service to others.

  7. Practice Fuck Yes/Fuck No Decision Making. Only take actions where you are either a fuck yes or a fuck no. Fuck yeses are easy. Fuck no's are worth exploring to see what the reaction is about. This might lead to taking actions outside your immediate comfort zone - all growth comes from the fuck nos. Leave everything in the middle alone - it's unlikely to be worth the time.

  8. Practice Dayenu. Dayenu is Hebrew and translates as "it would have been enough." Practicing means you are choosing to say, "I am satisfied with where I am and eager for more." You are practicing celebrating each step as if it were the whole journey, and then you get to take the next step.

  9. Certainty is an Uncomfortable Position, But Certainty is an Absurd One. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Practice being curious. Practice beginner's mind. Practice saying, "I don't know enough about this to have a useful opinion." The world seems to demand certainty. This is a trap. Answers are not as valuable as you might think. The inquiry is where the juice is.

  10. Let the Music Play the Band. The only step you need to choose is the next one. See where that takes you, and then take the next one. There are no mistakes. Miles Davis said, "If you hit the wrong note, it's the next note that determines if it's good or bad." In all things, be like Miles Davis. If you haven't been paying attention, everyone is making it up as they go along. It's all improv. Learn to jam.

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