I’ll happily read this to you in podcast form, or you can scroll to your heart’s content below.
The guys next to us on the highway are hanging out of the truck and wildly gesticulating at the front tire. They look more than a little panicked and the wheel appears to be smoking, so we pull over. I calmly open water bottle after water bottle, handing them across the front seat, while he douses the flaming wheel over and over again. (The kids are wrapped up in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Buckbeak is about to be terminated, rendering the vehicle fire a minor disturbance.) The truck has to be towed. Its passengers have to be transported separately to the garage for repairs.
The mechanic who’s driving us is clearly intimidated by the presence of a pink-haired woman, three children, and a dog dressed in her finest Mrs. Claus outfit, so we don’t talk much. I take a look around.
The car’s gas gauge doesn’t read Full or Empty and doesn’t include any fractions. It reads, “Distance to E.”
OH HOLY SHIT.
What if, instead of measuring our daily energy based on whether or not we’re merely awake, we honestly gauged our Distance to E each morning?
What if we woke up, stretched our arms wide, and felt it…372 miles. 30 miles. 3 miles. A quarter mile. 100 yards. 3 yards. Fuck it, I’m going back to bed.
What if we viewed our energy levels not as something we should always have more of, regardless of the weather, how much we’ve slept, what we’ve eaten, or what we have scheduled, but as a daily gas tank reading? Without judgement, without making one number better than any other? What if we tuned in to the animal parts of our bodies enough to take in the facts?
Your Distance to E changes daily.
Around the holidays, which are heavy with obligation, we all end up with fewer miles in the tank. When we go and go and go and go, ignoring our Distance to E readings repeatedly, we end up running on fumes, bitter and awkward and resentful of everyone we meet.
We pretend rest is the reward for our hard work instead of what makes the hard work possible.
Show me a human who rests when it’s necessary, sprinting when possible, and I’ll show you someone who’s 89% more likely to be further along five years from now than someone who is committed to sprinting faster and faster and faster every day with no regard for energy burned.
People who have learned to rest are to be revered. (And how fucked up is that? People who sleep, who acknowledge their limits, who take the time to say they’re tired, write bestselling books about the revolutionary new way they’re doing business.)
Your Distance to E is not a measure of your worth as a human.
It’s like a temperature reading. Everyone has preferred temperatures and more comfortable weather ranges, but we humans only have preferences. There is no universally perfect temperature, just as there is no universally preferred Distance to E in our respective tanks.
Some people want to ski, and some want to spend their whole lives in bikinis, and these two souls will never agree on an ideal daily temperature. Some people want to sprint like jackrabbits, and some people want to soak up the more subtle moments available on any given day. Fine. So long as we all agree that going as fast as you can for as long as you can with no breaks, rest, or thought for sustainably is not the ideal, we’ll call everyone right.
Getting in touch with your Distance to E is a helpful, completely free, and absolutely wonderful tool for your business.
It means you wake up, give yourself a few minutes, and ask, “How much fuel is in the tank?” If you slept poorly, had bad dreams, haven’t yet recovered from yesterday’s shitty circumstances, are consumed with dread for a meeting, or don’t want to work, you’ll have less fuel in the tank than on those days when you’ve eaten like a champion, hydrated well, and slept like a rock.
Again: your Distance to E is not a measure of your worth as a human.
It’s simply a measure of how much you can expect to accomplish on any given day. Patterns emerge over time. Scheduling your work day based on these patterns can be amazingly helpful.
I schedule my days based on how much energy I can manage on a 3-miles-in-the-tank day. With 30 miles in the tank, I can bang out far more than I’ve scheduled, but I only bank on the bare minimum of gas in the tank. For me, that’s a scheduled morning, typically from 9am to noon, with add-on tasks of varying length up for completion in the afternoon. Your zone of genius might be before dawn, or after lunch, or just before bed, or every Tuesday all day long because you work best in batches. Your preferences for the ways you spend your fuel and the scheduled tasks you take on are, again, not a measure of your worth as a human.
Life circumstances make for varying fuel levels.
Mothers of newborns aren’t capable of accomplishing as much as the average 24-year-old women in perfect health, simply because having no sleep and spotty meals and no time to yourself as you suckle a child takes way more fuel from the tank than sleeping well and solidly for eight hours at a clip before waking quietly to enjoy some alone time over a smoothie. That’s not a judgement of either person. It’s simply life circumstances writ large across the Distance to E.
Being honest about the fuel we’ve got renders us more capable of enjoying our lives.
2-mile days in which you use 1.8 miles’ worth of fuel are enjoyable. 2-mile days in which you try to push through 12 miles are a disaster every time.
Further. Since I’ve already introduced Harry Potter into the mix. Let’s talk unicorn blood.
We know that Voldemort famously consumed unicorn blood to keep him alive, but it doomed him to a half-life, rendering him incapable of feeling love or of making meaning ever again.
What if we acknowledged all the should’s in our lives for what they really are: unicorn blood.
Bear and I got home from the burning truck fire and Miles to E fiasco, only to turn on the TV and be bombarded with the obligatory After-Christmas-Now-It’s-The-New-Year ads that remind you of your many flaws.
You should be skinnier/more toned/hotter/generally more fuckable.
You should be focused on a new year, new you. Details vary, but this means you should buy different foods or cut out a food group or invest in goji berry stocks or find an 85th use for chia seeds in your life.
You should be more productive/better at time management/more capable of accomplishing in 7 hours what most people accomplish in 7 weeks, all while sporting selfie-friendly make-up.
You should focus on better SEO, or increased sales, or more effective marketing, or doubling — no wait, quintupling! — your business or your income or your Instagram following.
The list never ends, and the ways in which you’re coming up short are so much louder at the New Year than at any other time in modern civilization.
Those messages are made of unicorn blood: endless ‘should’s designed to keep you measuring the relative perfection of your life circumstances and coming up short.
Should’s steal your energy, render your life meaningless, and lead to endless frustration with your life as it currently stands.
More money does not equal more worth.
More cabbage and lemon water dieting does not equal more health.
More marketing does not equal more truth, more meaning, or even more money.
More grandiose resolutions do not equal more sustainable actions.
Should’s are the modern, non-magic equivalent of drinking unicorn blood, dooming you to live a half life from the moment you buy into them.
You don’t need 384 sex moves to use tonight and six-pack abs and a bigger house and a better car and an SEO expert and eighty-four thousand Instagram followers and a multi-six figure business to live a better life. Period.
No exceptions. You don’t need that shit. You can decide you want that shit, absolutely, but let it be because you really truly deep down want it, not because an ad finally broke you down and convinced you that your thigh gap is nigh.
Further into this Harry Potter metaphor, there are the horcruxes. In Voldemort-ian terms, these are pieces of the soul that have been infused into objects, rendering the maker of the horcrux incapable of being fully killed. You take a little piece of your soul and place it in a locket, and boom! Someone stabs you but they haven’t killed the locket, so you’re still technically alive.
In our everyday world, horcruxes are pieces of your happiness that you’ve tied up in stuff. You’ve given your happiness to an outside circumstance and given up hope of reclaiming it until the thing appears. For example.
You’ll be happy when you have:
Newer wallpaper, fresh curtains, cleaner floors, and more organized shelves.
384 sex moves that blow his mind.
One hundred more followers.
Ten thousand more dollars. Or ten thousand more subscribers or copies sold or…you get the idea.
Each one of those desires is in some way tied to a horcrux: the promise of happiness, elsewhere, on the other side of possessing one tweaked life condition.
Unfortunately, happiness horcruxes are made of lies. You can go on an infinitely difficult quest to find and conquer each one — drinking from the poisoned shell, gulping down every last bit of vitriol in an attempt to grasp the happiness it promises — and I can guarantee that you’ll come up empty.
You’ll love yourself just as much with new wallpaper as you did with the old.
Those one hundred new followers will feel identical to the hundred before them.
Horcruxes and unicorn blood are external factors.
They’re only valuable in so much as they help you generate internal results.
In so far as those 384 sex moves that blow his mind deepen intimacy with your partner, they’re great.
In so far as the followers help you earn more income, thus rendering you capable of pursuing your life’s calling, they’re fucking miraculous.
But in and of themselves, taken outside the larger context of your life? They’re absolutely useless.
Just messy entrails stolen from a once-magical creature, now dead.
Everyday objects infused with way more power than they deserve.
What if, this year, you refuse to drink the unicorn blood of all those should’s?
What if you stop giving the happiness horcruxes any power?
What if you focus on a pursuit that calls to you, body and soul?
In practical terms, that means taking a good look at all the should’s that stop you from doing cool shit. All the ways you worry about what other people think that keep you from doing amazing work or eating wonderful foods or dancing your ass off or quitting that social media platform or making stuff you absolutely adore.
Because I can tell you. My face used to be riddled with acne, and at the peak of its horror, when I was sure I couldn’t be any more hideous, I met the love of my life. (I do not use the word hideous lightly. I’m quoting my past self verbatim when I use it.)
I’ve gained weight during 2015. My thighs are wibbly and my arms have cellulite, which I didn’t even know was possible. According to the unicorn blood salespeople, I should be on the verge of suicide. I HAVE WIBBLY BITS. I HATE THE GYM AND HAVE NEVER DONE A P90X WORKOUT. I DON’T CHECK MY GOOGLE ANALYTICS OR OPTIMIZE MY SEO ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Who the fuck cares.
I haven’t focused on working out as much in the past 450-ish days, because deeply focusing on being in relationship — on loving well, and often, and with all of me — is far more important than the size of my thighs right now. (Also meeting and learning to care for three kids on and off is no joke.)
Sure, I “should” go to the gym, and I “should” eat more greens, and I “should” give way more attention to my business than I have in the past year.
But that’s some serious unicorn blood waiting to be consumed.
The truth is, I’m happiest doing yoga at home — not at the gym, which smells like feet and ball sweat made an oddly sickening sock baby. I eat greens when my body asks for them. My business is doing what I want it to do without my spending 70 hours a week working on it.
I might weigh almost 200 pounds, but goddamn.
I’m listening to the whispers.
The deep, quiet whispers mean I’ve given up alcohol and dairy in the past year — not because I “should,” but because my body finally managed to communicate the message clearly enough for me to hear it.
I’ve been writing and making more than ever, not because I decided to participate in a revolutionary 30-day program that will change my whole life forever and ever, but because it feels better to make than to hold back any more of my voice.
The deepest, quietest whispers say things about telling the truth, vulnerability, and pursuing the moments and spaces in my life that feel holy.
You’re perfectly capable of listening to the deepest, quietest whispers within you. (Spoiler alert: they’ll probably whisper to you about truth, and vulnerability, and making holy spaces in your life, too.)
When you stop giving into the should’s that say you should lose ten pounds (or 15 or 20 or 85), or you should work harder and more, or less and less, or at all; when you stop telling yourself that you should spend more time with your kids, or homeschool them or unschool them or get them into more extracurriculars so they can go to an Ivy League school; when you stop beating yourself up about the shit you don’t — but inexplicably feel you should — care about…
When you can see the unicorn blood in the vial, pulsing with promise, and decide not to drink it.
When you can see the happiness horcruxes you’ve made, and refuse to give them any more power.
When you’re brave enough to be with your own desires. To listen to your own whispers. To say the truth out loud, with or without a thigh gap.
You’ll have everything you need, without making a single resolution or spending a single dime.