Throwback Thursday: The Ego Shell and Emotional Armor

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That’s me in July of 2011.

I recently came across this picture again… And you know what? I never even realized how muscular I was then.

Seriously, I didn’t. Body dysmorphia is an insidious delusion. Our minds play tricks on us more often than not.

At that point in my life, I was dead set on achieving perfection in every aspect of life. I NEEDED to be the fittest, smartest, funniest, wisest and most creative person in the room, simultaneously; at all times. Now how about that for some constant pressure based on unreal expectations?

If I could sum up my belief system, it would be this – Nothing was ever good enough.

Of course, there are far worse problems to have. But this is an exposé of the more shadowy delusions so many of us face (or choose not to face).

It’s not all bad though. This mentality greatly helped me in many, many ways. Due to this hyper-imbalance towards the warrior archetype, I’ve been able to learn, apply and do so much within a short span of 28 years. I’m grateful for that, though I recognize it no longer serves my highest good.

I now know this phase needed to happen in order to get to where I am now and to give me massive momentum in the direction I’m going.

With that nod of gratitude, I want to dissect for you the psyche behind the muscular frame you see in that picture…

Layer 1: Emotional Armor

I’m a sensitive person, a prototypical Cancer in that sense. Up until very recently, I would take any criticism like an arrow to the heart.

When I started working out and seeing results, it was like discovering armor against criticism. Since I was wrapped in my ego and focused on the illusion of perfection (among other things), I created a need to protect myself emotionally. I feared criticism, so I devised ways to mitigate it.

I felt like being muscular gave me armor against criticism. It was an ego shell. I thought that because I was “jacked”, people would be less inclined to criticize or make fun of me when I would act like my weird, authentic self.

It worked, for the most part, and it did help me to get more comfortable with who I am as a unique individual. But I needed to address the root. Why was I afraid of criticism in the first place? The revelations I describe below helped me drop that fear.

Now I no longer need emotional armor. I have nothing to defend, no false identity to parade to the world. Sure, I stay pretty fit. But the difference is, I don’t give a fuck now, whatsoever. I love myself no matter what (except sometimes when I forget to).

Last year I actually took a few months off of working out. I just did a lot of yoga and walking. Why? Because I needed to go into my feminine side and allow myself to evolve, instead of forcing it or unknowingly closing myself off with a hyper-masculine, stubborn attitude.

This more yin approach worked wonders and I was able to go through some incredible transformations. Then after a few months, I felt ready to ground back into my masculine side again. So I started working out again, but from a place of self-love, not to build emotional armor.

Layer 2: Perfectionism

Perfectionism was omnipresent for me throughout most of my life. I still even need to be mindful of perfectionist tendencies.

Much of perfectionism is due to cultural conditioning. Our parents and teachers praised us only when we did something they labeled as good. The media perpetually force-feeds us with artificially projected images of perfection for every aspect of life.

So many of us are slaves to our ego, which drags us along on the roller coaster of superiority and inferiority. No aspect of our society teaches us to embrace our uniqueness and accept ourselves as we are right now.

Perfection doesn’t exist (in this reality at least). We’re all imperfect beings. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. That’s so beautiful, so… perfect. In a paradoxical way, we can find perfection in the imperfection of everything.

For me, as I said before, nothing was ever good enough. I was critical of others, but even more critical of myself. My inner judge was a slave driver, constantly pushing me. I thought salvation was found in some future achievement or in becoming something more. My sense of self-worth was tied to the chaos of external circumstance.

For a deeper dive into perfectionism, check out my article How to Overcome Perfectionism

Layer 3: External Worthiness

I used to believe that I could attain worthiness by achievement. Oh, how that resulted in unrelenting difficulty. Again, this is culturally perpetuated and many of us have this belief to some degree.

I would not love myself as I was in any given moment. Instead, as I said before, the hope of salvation was somewhere in the future. But tomorrow never comes.

Self-worth is a journey all of us face. We all must go within and remove the debris we’ve piled on top of our essence. That’s the key.

The ironic thing for me is that my perfectionism made me want to improve every aspect of myself, even regarding self-love. Recently I got to a point where I felt clear and free. I still have certain hang-ups and delusions, yet I’m mindful of them and I accept my imperfections.

I got so good at solving problems and shoring up weaknesses. But then I realized that this need to correct everything was the very thing blocking me from true self-love. So in essence, I raced down the highway of personal growth, only to find out that my biggest lesson was to enjoy the scenery.

I’ve cultivated unconditional love within myself (most of the time). And because of that, I’m now able to love others unconditionally.

Love… that’s what is underneath all of the layers.

The biggest paradox of self-improvement is that we’ve had what we were looking for all along. We just couldn’t see it.

Thank you for reading.

– Stevie P!

Back to Us (A Poem)

class picture

Life was simpler then
The only device we carried around
Was a game boy pocket
Connect the cord
Trading Pokemon under our desks
Don’t let the teacher see

Oh, we had tv, radio, computers and even portable technology
But it was far from everywhere

All we had to do was step outside
For recess and, though we couldn’t physically leave, we were FREE
Freer than we are today? Maybe

Life wasn’t without stress though
Shyness, nervousness, the fear of not being accepted by our peers

Both the light and the dark sides of tribalism had a hold on us

Sun shining
Imaginations brimming over
Fun and games
Interspersed with sometimes singling out the weak or vulnerable
I’ve been on both sides
More teasing than vicious
Yet still traumatizing for fragile souls

Oh, where do we find solace?
How can I blend the simple joys of childhood
With the small bits of wisdom I’ve gathered since?

There’s no going back
Time spirals in cycles

This time around
On a new layer of the spiral
I reach across the curve of events
Grabbing those simple joys I’ve left behind
For, paradoxically, that will allow me to let go

Somewhere beneath the physicality
Beneath the beliefs and hand-me-down identity
There is a core of being
An indescribable essence that permeates all

Through looking back, we really look within

A Journey Through Existential Crisis

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Act I: You

You’re different.

You feel like you don’t truly belong anywhere.

There are things you feel and experience that are unexplainable. And most people wouldn’t even be able to grasp it if you told them.

Most aspects of society are disillusioning to you. Many facets of physical reality are limiting to you, but you’ve tasted both the infinite bliss of the present moment and the fearless abyss that exists beyond. You know your own power, you feel your deepest truth and that’s what gives you the strength to keep going.

You’re a tightrope walker, walking between worlds. Sometimes you fall into one or the other, sometimes you jump into one or the other, sometimes you dance along the tightrope and sometimes you find yourself paralyzed, looking down from unfathomable heights with existential dread. Whatever it is, it is. Let it happen. It’s just a circus act.

You’re a pioneer, exploring uncharted territory. You brush up against the walls of mystery only to realize that they’re just thin veils.

You see through the illusions. Your vision pierces through the darkest night.

You paint the unseen with colors imperceptible to the human eye.

You’ve awakened from the slumber of a fake, gift box reality and burst into the infinite swirling layers of existence.

You throw yourself into the ocean of the unknown. And as scared as you are, you understand that you’re really a drop in that ocean; an intrinsic part, a microcosm of the whole.

You’re not content on the surface. You dive deep, just to see how far you can go. Because, to you, the thought of leaving so much unexplored is far worse than drowning in the depths.

This is the path of the seeker and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’re different, you’re unique, but you’re not alone.

Act II: Me

I’m different.

I feel like I don’t truly belong anywhere.

There are things I feel and experience that are unexplainable. And most people wouldn’t even be able to grasp it if I told them.

Most aspects of society are disillusioning to me. Many facets of physical reality are limiting to me, but I’ve tasted both the infinite bliss of the present moment and the fearless abyss that exists beyond. I know my own power, I feel my deepest truth and that’s what gives me the strength to keep going.

I’m a tightrope walker, walking between worlds. Sometimes I fall into one or the other, sometimes I jump into one or the other, sometimes I dance along the tightrope and sometimes I find myself paralyzed, looking down from unfathomable heights with existential dread. Whatever it is, it is. Let it happen. It’s just a circus act.

I’m a pioneer, exploring uncharted territory. I brush up against the walls of mystery only to realize that they’re just thin veils.

I see through the illusions. My vision pierces through the darkest night.

I paint the unseen with colors imperceptible to the human eye.

I’ve awakened from the slumber of a fake, gift box reality and burst into the infinite swirling layers of existence.

I throw myself into the ocean of the unknown. And as scared as I am, I understand that I’m really a drop in that ocean; an intrinsic part, a microcosm of the whole.

I’m not content on the surface. I dive deep, just to see how far I can go. Because, to me, the thought of leaving so much unexplored is far worse than drowning in the depths.

This is the path of the seeker and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m different, I’m unique, but I’m not alone.

Act III: We

We’re different.

We feel like we don’t truly belong anywhere.

There are things we feel and experience that are unexplainable. And most people wouldn’t even be able to grasp it if we told them.

Most aspects of society are disillusioning to us. Many facets of physical reality are limiting to us, but we’ve tasted both the infinite bliss of the present moment and the fearless abyss that exists beyond. We know our own power, we feel our deepest truth and that’s what gives us the strength to keep going.

We’re tightrope walkers, walking between worlds. Sometimes we fall into one or the other, sometimes we jump into one or the other, sometimes we dance along the tightrope and sometimes we find ourselves paralyzed, looking down from unfathomable heights with existential dread. Whatever it is, it is. Let it happen. It’s just a circus act.

We’re pioneers, exploring uncharted territory. We brush up against the walls of mystery only to realize that they’re just thin veils.

We see through the illusions. Our vision pierces through the darkest night.

We paint the unseen with colors imperceptible to the human eye.

We’ve awakened from the slumber of a fake, gift box reality and burst into the infinite swirling layers of existence.

We throw ourselves into the ocean of the unknown. And as scared as we are, we understand that we’re really a drop in that ocean; an intrinsic part, a microcosm of the whole.

We’re not content on the surface. We dive deep, just to see how far we can go. Because, to us, the thought of leaving so much unexplored is far worse than drowning in the depths.

This is the path of the seeker and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’re different, we’re unique, but we’re not alone.
 

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Why I Stopped Traveling the World

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After about 5 months of inspirited vagabondism all over this beautiful planet, I’ve decided to stop traveling (for now).

What? Why? Are you crazy? Don’t you want to keep traveling the world?

Not really, at least for this phase of my life.

I had a myriad of amazing experiences, met hundreds of wonderful people, discovered so much about myself and gained an enormous amount of clarity regarding, well, everything. In short, I got what I was looking for (but of course, the journey now continues in other ways).

How I Decided Where to Go

My travels were guided by places that were calling me. I would get these deep, intuitive callings to go places. And that’s what I followed, no matter what. Money, distance and convenience all took a back seat while I faithfully navigated via my inner compass.

Every place was special and served as an auspicious co-conspirator for my personal evolution. They all played a role that I never would have imagined if I didn’t follow “the calling.”

“There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.” ~ Albert Einstein

Why I Stopped Traveling

I stopped traveling because no particular place is calling me right now.

However, that calling is now coming in the form of new endeavors (there are big things on the horizon for Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great) and building relationships with kindred spirits.

I have an incredible pull coming from the depths of my being. So that’s my focus right now. That is the theme of this chapter of my life.

Where in the World was Stephen Parato?

Here’s the general list of places I went to (notice that most of it doesn’t make sense from a strictly logical standpoint):

Marseilles, France
Barcelona, Spain
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Split, Croatia
Hvar Island, Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia
Pune, India (at the Osho International Meditation Resort)
Bangkok, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Pai, Thailand
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Arambol, Goa, India
Iquitos, Peru (and the Peruvian Amazon)
Cusco, Peru
Machu Picchu
Puno, Peru
Copacabana, Bolivia
Isla Del Sol & Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Panama City, Panama
Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Isla Basimentos, Panama
San Jose, Costa Rica
Uvita, Costa Rica (and Envision festival)

I took a bunch of buses, a few trains and 13 flights throughout those 5 months (like a so-rad, pro-nomad).

I stayed everywhere from hostels, to Airbnb places, to guest houses and even a fancy hotel in Panama City for a night.

Such diversity of life experiences allows me to appreciate everything more, develop the perspective to be able to relate to anyone and evolve into the greatest version of myself.

Traveling for the Sake of Traveling

Since no place is truly calling me right now, if I were to keep gallivanting around, I would just be traveling for the sake of traveling. Doing that would actually be going against my intuitive guidance (which is pointing me towards new projects and building relationships, not more travel). And we all know what happens when we ignore our intuition.

If you’re traveling for the sake of traveling, are you really being guided by your internal compass? Are you traveling just so you can take beautiful Instagram pictures so that everyone thinks you’re cool? These are questions I’ve periodically asked myself. Notice when your lifestyle choices are based upon other people, or society, instead of your own inner guidance.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” ~ Steve Jobs

I’ve learned to trust my intuition and trust the process of life. When I do, life is infinitely more fulfilling and magical. On the surface, continuing to travel seems exciting, but I know that I’m entering into a different phase right now. I know that as I walk this path of inner truth, opportunities will present themselves that I never would have imagined beforehand.

What is Calling You?

Get in tune with what is calling you. Be brutally honest with yourself.

What do you have a deep, irresistible calling towards?

Who cares what anyone else tells you? Live based on your own genuine, intuitive (heart-based) desires otherwise you’ll forever be a slave to other people and external forces.

The calling will be different for everyone. For you, it may be be starting a family, or learning a new language or traveling to the country where your grandparents were born. We’re all utterly unique, on different journeys and at different stages of our own hero’s journey.

It all boils down to this: Live YOUR life.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

Croatian Island Bay Stance #hvar #starigrad #croatia #thatstancetho #perfectform

A photo posted by steviepthatsme (@steviepthatsme) on


 

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Why Learning is like Jet Fuel for Happiness

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I found myself wading into the alluring blue-green Caribbean Sea, with my right hand on a surfboard and my eyes fixated on an immense wave approaching. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating: an ominous undulation, already taller than me, quickly rising out of the infinity of liquid power. But the fear within, which had risen along with the wave itself, was immediately transmuted into childlike excitement as I snapped into action, spinning the surfboard around and hopping on, belly first.

Exuding exuberance, I glanced over my right shoulder to see the wave swiftly advancing toward me. My warrior ethos kicked in and I paddled with powerful, staunch strokes, building just enough momentum right as the wave tasted my heels. The wall of water surged upon me, thrusting me into a realm of slowed time and total focus. The board was no longer a lifeless object, but a kindred spirit, conspiring to maximize my moment. It was a beautiful communion between beings, conceived through coalescence and driven by synergy.

With a blast of pizzazz, I popped up onto my feet, landing in the classic surfer stance (totally, dude). What a feeling! The inner child within me was jumping for joy as I cruised towards the shore with a beaming smile on my face.

That was the conclusion of my very first surfing lesson. It was a true climax of bliss, fueled by the magical phenomenon of… LEARNING.

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Learning is an integral element of the human experience.

We came into this life to learn and grow. And without learning, no growth is possible.

All inhibitors of learning and growth (stagnation, monotony, boredom, fear, comfort zones…etc) drain the joy out of life and deaden the spirit. On the other hand, learning, growth, progress and perpetual new experiences infuse life with a euphoric vivacity. This feeling of elation is a tell-tale sign that you’re in alignment with your inner truth.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Life’s tendency is toward progression. Life is defined by growth. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Learning is a precursor to growth and an undeniable catalyst of happiness.

The act of learning doesn’t have to be strictly intellectual either. If it’s something physical, like surfing, your mind and body work together in the learning process. This weaves threads of cooperative harmony through all levels of being.

It is undeniable that learning is crucial to the human experience. Learn to love learning and your life has no choice but to change for the better.

Think about how good improvement feels. Think about how good personal evolution feels. That feeling is the child of learning and growth.

Be Willing, Eager and Open to Learning

Willingness to learn is as equally important as the learning process itself. If you’re open and eager enough, you will learn anything you wish to.

Three Manifestations of Willingness that Will Greatly Accelerate Your Life Learning Process

  1. Embrace curiosity – Einstein put it perfectly when he said, ““I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
  2. Listen – Listen to what other people have to say, instead of talking all of the time. Listen intently, listen with curiosity and listen with an open mind.
  3. Ask questions – Question everything and entertain any idea.

Be willing, eager and open to learning and the doors of understanding will eagerly open to you.

There are, of course, ways to refine and streamline the learning process as well.

An effective model for rapid learning is Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy from his book The Four Hour Chef. The acronym D.S.S.S. stands for Deconstruct, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes.

Deconstruct
“What are the minimum learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?

Selection
“Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

Sequencing
“In what order should I learn the blocks?”

Stakes
“How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”

Read more about Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy here.

Another Useful Tip for Learning

The human attention span is not very long, so learning in short stints (30-60 minutes at a time, with short breaks in between) is a great way to leverage this. The percentage of information you’re able to retain drops in the middle of any learning session. This is why most people only remember the beginning and end of a long, study marathon. So instead of trudging through things for hours, engaging in short sessions with breaks allows you to function at maximum capacity and actually get more done. Plus, it just feels better (which is a subtle hint itself).

This is why many schools found it more effective to have 50-minute classes, because after that point, kids stop paying attention.

I personally thrive off of getting things done in 20-30 minute chunks, followed by breaks. This is a great strategy for learning, writing and really accomplishing anything.

Tim Ferriss (again) beautifully charts this phenomenon in The Four Hour Chef:

4HC

Why Surfing is the Perfect Medium for Learning

Surfing is both physical and mental – Surfing simultaneously engages the body and mind, and is healthy for both. You use both simultaneously, which creates harmony between the two. Plus, it’s a form of exercise (which, as everyone knows, has a ton of benefits itself).

Nature therapy – You’re outside and connected with nature while you’re learning. You get your feet in the sand (grounding/Earthing), the sun on your face (Vitamin D), the breeze in your hair and you’re in the water (which comes with benefits too). It’s a beautiful, healthy combination of learning and the four earthly elements.

Surfing engages the warrior ethos in a healthy manner – It’s a positive outlet for your warrior spirit. Surfing is both a physical battle and a cooperation between you and the ocean. For those like myself who have a deep connection with the warrior archetype, positive expressions of it are necessary for your well-being. For too long, the warrior ethos of humanity has been relegated to war and other forms of senseless violence. Learning to surf is also learning to bring out your warrior ethos in a healthy way.

As you can tell, I love learning. And learning how to surf was a tremendous experience for me.

Keep learning. Keep growing. Find happiness along the journey of continuous expansion.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

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2

5 Reasons Why Traveling is Like Playing a Video Game

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Pai, Thailand

Here you are…

You materialized in the third dimension, popped out of your momma and ended up a resident of planet Earth.

So don’t you want to explore it? Don’t you want to see what it’s all about? Aren’t you curious?

I know I am (to say the least). And deep down, beneath all of the fear, you too want to explore as much as you can before you’re gone.

The concept of life being like a video game fascinates me. For many reasons, I think it’s such a profound (and accurate) comparison.

Beyond the argument that so many signs are pointing to this universe being some sort of grand holographic simulation*, the principles of video games also apply to life in general. That’s the aspect which I want to focus on here.

Read another post of mine about life being like a video game here: Life is a Video Game: The Challenge Perspective

We only grow through overcoming obstacles. Everything is a learning experience. If life weren’t challenging, it wouldn’t be fulfilling, rewarding or fun. Think about it this way, would you play Super Mario if all you had to do was casually stroll to the right the whole time, meeting no obstacles? Of course not. That would get boring after two minutes. The same theme applies to life.

Travel is an aspect of life where the video game comparison is unavoidable. Here’s why…

5 Reasons Why Traveling is Like Playing a Video Game:

1. You Expand Your “Mental Map”

The mental map is a concept that my friend (shout out to Cole King) and I came up with while we were working as pizza delivery drivers in high school. We compared learning new streets to the maps found in many video games. You know how in video games the map starts as completely black, and as you explore it, it clears? (You can see a good example of it in this video.) Well, the same applies to your own mental map in life. Everything is just a mysterious abyss when it’s unknown. And you “clear out” and materialize that abyss by personally exploring it.

It would be a damn shame to die with only a tiny speck of your mental map cleared out. There’s so much out there (and in there) to see and experience. Make your story exploratory!

2. You Level Up Through New Experiences

I love the concept of “leveling up.” When traveling, I find myself gaining new insight (like whoa), broadening my perspective and developing skills at a mindblowing rate. Improving at anything is leveling up, and travel is conducive to improvement in many facets of life.

When traveling, you continuously expose yourself to new experiences. You’re perpetually launching yourself out of you comfort zone. You don’t learn or grow by going through the same monotonous routine all of your life. New experiences provide the fertile ground for you to grow, level up and evolve into the greatest version of yourself.

3. You Meet New People (Allies)

If you’ve done any traveling, you know that you meet so many awesome, interesting people. You learn from all of these people too. Everyone you meet is a teacher. People you meet are like allies you encounter in a video game.

4. Each Place You Go to is a New Level

Each and every place has its own unique culture, landscapes, architecture, quirks and personality. They are all different levels within the video game that is your life.

5. You Must Defeat the Bosses

In most video games, there are bosses to defeat at the end of each level. The “bosses” in life, however, are often intangible forces and/or fears to overcome. For example, You may have a fear of heights that you defeat by cliff jumping.

“Bosses” that I’ve defeated on this trip:

Travel anxiety – The fear of missing a flight, not finding a place to stay…etc. All of that fear based on projecting into the future. I’ve learned to do what I can, let go and be present instead of uselessly worrying about the future.

Fear of rejection – This fear would come up when approaching women. But I’ve acted in spite of this fear so many times that it’s no longer is a big deal. And you know what? Every time I’ve said “fuck it” and approached someone I wanted to talk to, it turned out well (or it’s a funny story). I’ve even met some really, really amazing people doing this. Maybe I’ll elaborate on it more in another post.

Striving syndrome – I’m hyper-critical of myself most of the time. I constantly put pressure on myself to keep improving, be a better person, learn more, write more and stay focused on goals. This is good when it comes to achievement, but it can rob you of the bliss of allowing yourself to just BE. There have been many moments where I had to stop and give myself permission to just BE; to simply enjoy the moment, with no goals and nothing to strive for. It’s difficult to balance being grateful for where you are right now and continuously improving. But I’m finding that balance. Due to my awareness of this tendency within myself, the “striving syndrome” now has less of a grip on me.

Kayaking in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kayaking in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where I’ve been to so far on this trip (aka the details of my mental map expansion):
Marseilles, France
Barcelona, Spain
Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar Island, Zagreb
India – Pune
Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur

This trip feels like I’ve squeezed multiple lifetimes into this journey called “Stephen Parato.” I’m so grateful to be doing this and I want to inspire you to follow your heart as well.

Have fun and keep leveling up.

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

– Stevie P!

PS – For pictures and some short goofy videos of my travels, follow me on Instagram @steviepthatsme

*Resources regarding our reality being a holographic simulation:
Physicists May Have Evidence Universe Is A Computer Simulation
The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot

 

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11 Unique Ways to Optimize Your Travel Experience Wherever You Go

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In case you don’t know, I’m on an epic trip right now. (Here’s a little background)

Travel is one of the best ways to expand your perceptions. Everywhere you go adds depth to your character. Exposure to new cultures and new places are priceless experiences.

I’ve been thinking about techniques I use to make the most out of my experiences, no matter where I am. So I came up with a list. They’re as applicable to a weekend trip to a nearby town as they are to backpacking around the world.

These work incredibly well for me, so I suspect that you’ll find them useful too.

11 Unique Ways to Optimize Your Travel Experience Wherever You Go

1. Get in the right state of mind – If you want to maximize your travel experience, you have to have an adventurous mentality. Be spontaneous and bold. Drop the inhibitions that don’t serve you. You may even have to periodically psyche yourself up (that’s what I do).

2. Pack light – There’s something magical about minimalism. Plus, it’s easier to get around when you have less stuff. (Read my article about traveling light here)

3. Walk a lot – My favorite thing to do in a new place is walk around, a lot. Exploring places on foot is an intimate experience with wherever you are. And as a bonus, walking comes with a near endless list of benefits. It’s what our body is designed to do.

4. Find the highest point – Every city has a structure with a great view and/or a hill with a phenomenal vantage point. Find out what it is and go to it. It’s always breathtaking. And if you’re not in a city, still find the high ground. Like if you’re In New Hampshire, hike Mt Washington.

5. Leverage the power of fasting – I’m a big fan of intermittent fasting. It comes with a host of health and cognitive benefits, along with making life easier. I always fast during flights if I’m changing time zones, and break the fast once I get to where I’m going. This helps me sync up with the place I’m at much quicker. What my usual day consists of is skip breakfast, having a light, healthy lunch and eating whatever I want for dinner. I never get energy crashes and feel amazing. Think about it, you can’t really function if you’re eating heavy during the day. This eating cycle also has the benefit of detoxification after indulging in food or alcohol the night before.

Resources on intermittent fasting:
The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler
8 Incredible Health Benefits Of Fasting
LeanGains.com
Why Breakfast is Nothing But a Scam

6. AirBnb – I use AirBnb almost everywhere I travel to. It’s cheaper than hotels and you get to meet locals who host their places.

When I was just in Barcelona, I got a room in a nice 2 bedroom apartment. The host was an Italian guy named Daniele who lived in the other bedroom. He ended up being one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. It felt like I was visiting an old friend. He had everything set-up for me and gave me the inside scoop on the best places to go. I even went out with him and his friends one night, which was a lot of fun.

7. Tinder – Yes, it’s an app for hook-ups, but it’s also a useful tool for meeting new people around you.

When I was in Marseille, France last week, I downloaded Tinder and within a few minutes I was talking to a woman from Marseilles. After we confirmed that we were both decent people, we agreed to meet up. She drove me around in her awesome little golf cart car. It was small and had no windows or doors haha. We went to a cool, local bar and then she took me to the café that her and her mother own. She knew everyone in Marseille and it was an experience I would have been hard-pressed to create on my own.

8. Find the cool spots for food and drink – The touristy places are always more expensive and worse than the good ones. They’re the overpriced ones closest to the main tourist attractions and/or squares. The best restaurants are usually smaller places on side streets. Look for handwritten menus on chalkboards, as places with those never disappoint.

9. Eat local – Eat the local cuisine. Get the genuine experience. Are you really going to eat at a chain restaurant if you’re in Italy? C’mon son. They say “When in Rome…” for a reason.

10. Drink local – This is the same premise as the food. If you’re in Belgium, drink beer. If you’re in Italy, drink wine. And even if there isn’t a famous type of drink, every place has a local brand that they’re proud of. Do yourself a favor and try it. (See my picture below with a good Croatian beer)

11. Don’t be afraid to ask – Ask for directions if you’re lost. Ask someone to take a picture of you. This will not only help you, but asking questions is a great conversation starter as well. I’ve met a lot of cool people by just asking them a question.

Try implementing some of these on your next trip. I’m pretty confident that they’ll add to your experience.

Cheers from Dubrovnik, Croatia.

– Stevie P

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4

The Joy of Minimalism: Traveling the World with Only Carry-On Luggage

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My rap name = 2 Bagz

Hey there, earthlings.

I’ve embarked upon my journey. I’m traveling to at least 5 different countries and for at least 2 months. Basically being a professional nomad.

And as you can see from the picture, I’m not bringing much; just a small duffle bag and backpack.

I packed so little that I’m only traveling with carry-on luggage. (I carry on like a wayward son.)

My packing strategy:
1) I only brought the absolute necessities – One pair of shoes (Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe), 8 pairs of socks and boxers, 7 nice, versatile t-shirts, one long sleeved short (I’m not going anywhere cold), one extra pair of pants, one pair of khaki shorts, one bathing suit, a few toiletries, my laptop and a couple books. That’s basically all I packed. what else do you really need?

2) I rolled my clothes up, instead of folding them – With the rolling method, you can pack much more clothing into a small duffle bag, and with less wrinkles.

I absolutely love the feeling of owning no more than I can carry. It’s so freeing.

The more things you own, the more things own you.

“Live light, travel light, be the light.” – Yogi Bhajan

This is a metaphor for life as well: Excess baggage weighs you down.

I believe that life is best lived when you’re “like water.” Water is flowing, dynamic and flexible. And having a lot of baggage, whether physical or emotional, hinders this state of being.

Minimalism is freedom. And minimalism is conducive to living in the moment, without the burden of excess baggage.

Experiences > Stuff

Experiences are far more fulfilling than things. Experiences create lasting happiness and catalyze personal growth.

The debate of experiences vs stuff has been well studied too. When someone buys a new car, they get an initial happiness boost because it’s new. But after a couple months, it loses its novelty factor. And like a fiend, this person will need another fix and buy something else to chase happiness.

Accumulate experiences, not stuff.

I’ll keep this post light as well and end it here.

Stay tuned for some fun travel blogging.

Much love from Marseille, France.

– Stevie P!

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Lifting the Dead

This post was inspired by Deadlift Essentials, a great program by my friend Isaac Payne. The deadlift is my favorite exercise (as you’ll soon find out), but it must be done properly. Isaac provides immensely helpful tips on perfecting your deadlift form. Check it out HERE. And in case you’re wondering, I have no monetary involvement with the product. I just like to support good people and good information.

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Once upon a time (at the gym)…

The straight silver bar stared back at me. Its machine-grooved, stainless steel body beckoned my hands as it floated through the center of two vertical stacks of formidable black plates.

There is a feeling like none other when you really that know you’re pushing your boundaries. Fear lies inside of the walls of comfort zones. And outside, is the world of unbridled exhilaration. I knew it was time for me to break on through.

This physical embodiment of resistance lay poised before me, challenging me, while I shook the last shreds of doubt out of my body.

I leaned down and gave a comforting rub to my right knee. It acts up occasionally. Never pain, but just a slight sensation of feeling “off.” I gave my knee the tender encouragement it needed to be up to the task.

I then stepped to my 325 pound opponent; my 147.418 kilogram friend; my iron-constructed learning experience.

With my feet directly below my hips, I carefully wiggled them into position. The bar became a cross-section, cutting the view of my shoes in half as I glanced down. The superimposition looked like a neutral smile, almost as if saying “Let’s see what you got.”

Now focusing on my ankles, I subtly bounced on them, gauging their readiness. They eagerly awaited the challenge.

Keeping my spine as straight and taut as the bar beneath me, I hinged at my hips and bent my knees. My robust hands confidently slid against the bumpy pattern. Clenching the iron, my fingers slowly closed into a vice-grip.

The word “power” rang in my mind, as if it came from some primal part of me.

Another subtle bounce, this time probing my entire lower body. My feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips all felt like a loaded spring. A small smirk emerged from my face.

I tightened my grip, flexing my fully extended arms and tucked my shoulders down my posterior chain. My entire back contracted like a suit of armor.

Inhaling deeply, I drew strength into every cell of my body.

I braced my abdomen with tremendous force, like I was about to get shot with a cannon ball at point-blank range.

My grip climaxed, irradiating strength through my entire body. My glutes fired, like the thrusters of a rocket ship. Blast off.

I exhaled every ounce of fear left in my being. The bar levitated slowly off the ground. As it passed my knees, my stalwart hip-hinge exploded the weight upwards, ending with the bar kissing my upper thighs as I stood up straight.

Every muscle in my body was contracted as I stood in mighty satisfaction, holding 325 pounds in my hands.

“Power.” That unyielding mantra again rose to prominence in my consciousness. Energy animated my body, enlivening the totality of my existence.

I paused, savoring the moment; admiring the magnificent strength capacity of the human body. (And to think, I would be doing this with 10 more pounds next week.)

Then I hinged at the hip again, lowering the weight and letting the plates gently smack the hard rubber floor.

I released my right foot from its suction-like grip and pivoted to grab my water bottle.

As I sauntered past the plates, I lightly tapped the congregation to whisper a heart-pounding “Thank you.”


 

PS – That’s an excerpt from my book Momentous: A Compilation of Micro Stories Acting as Glimpses of the Eternal Magic of Life’s Moments. Check that out too if you enjoyed reading this.


 

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1

The Challenge Perspective

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
― Carlos Castaneda

There are no problems, only challenges.

This is the lens through which I’ve looked at life lately. I’ll call it “the challenge perspective”; and it’s been utterly transformative for me.

Viewing everything as a challenge closely ties in with the idea of life being a video game of sorts. Would you play Super Mario if all you had to do was just walk to the right the whole time, unopposed by any obstacles? Of course not, the challenge is what makes it fun. Pushing our limits makes it all worth it. We only grow when we’re subjected to resistance.

How are you viewing and addressing “difficult” situations in life? Are you stepping into your inherent power and taking them head on? Or are you playing victim and wallowing in disempowerment? Your experience of life can (and will) vary radically depending on your perspective.

When your significant other is angry or frustrated, do you react with similar anger or frustration? Do you run away because you think you can’t handle it? Or do you take on the challenge and embody love and lightheartedness in the face of fear?

When you’re running low on money, do you dwell in self-pity and victimhood? Or do you embrace the challenge and work to better your situation?

When you have to do something you despise doing at work, do you throw your hands up in defeat and complain? Or do you say “challenge accepted” and get it done, knowing that it will make you a stronger person?

When you’re pushing your physical limits, do you succumb to fear and doubt? Or do you tap into your indwelling fortitude and power through?

I had to tussle with that last set of questions recently while hiking Mt. Washington with the beautiful, wonderful Wander Woman (evidence below). She set a rigorous pace, to say the least, as we ascended the highest peak in the Northeastern USA (on its toughest trail too). We donkey konged up steep slopes of snow and ice, scrambled up rock faces, and scaled serious inclines for hours on end. There were points where I was exhausted and felt self-doubt creeping in, but I tapped deep into my reservoir of empowerment and pushed through. Because of that, I’m a stronger, more resilient person.

When you break on through, a greater version of yourself appears on the other side.

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You see, it’s not really about what happens to you in life; it’s about how you perceive each situation and how you act based on your perception. That’s what determines your subjective reality.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

Life isn’t easy for anyone. But that’s the beauty of it. We all have our unique struggles which shape our character. We all have obstacles to overcome. We all face challenges that facilitate continuous growth and development.

Diamonds are created under extraordinary pressure. Mighty swords are forged in fierce fires of intensified heat.

Embrace the challenges presented to you. They’re perfect for your evolution into the best version of yourself.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Learn, grow, persevere, and, most importantly, have fun.

– Stevie P!