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Love, Rebirth, Being Good, Ultraspeaking, and Generosity

What if you don't need to be good?

Hello friends and welcome back to Life Reimagined, a free weekly elixir designed to make you feel good and live better.

🎨 I. Love and Art

This week, I ambled through New York City carrying Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet in my back pocket. I took out the book when I needed a break from the intoxicating buzz of busyness, money, and ambition that covers the city.

Rilke’s letters have many insights, but there was one that struck me as important for anyone who enjoys or makes art.

“Read as little as possible of aesthetic criticism—such things are either partisan views, petrified and grown senseless in their lifeless induration, or they are clever quibbling in which today one view wins and tomorrow the opposite. Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.”

If you create, don’t pay attention to or try to please the critics. Focus on the art.

And if you comment on art, be kind. Turn a shoulder to the art you don’t enjoy and don’t forget to share your love of the works that make your blood pump.

🧘‍♂️ II. A Weird Exercise to Reset

My buddy and I were waiting for a train, and he was visibly agitated about being ghosted by a romantic interest. Not only was he agitated about being ghosted, but he was also agitated about how agitated he was.

Mark Manson calls this “the feedback loop from hell.” It’s when we have negative emotions, and because we think we should not experience them, we end up spiraling even deeper into the emotion. We’re unhappy that we’re unhappy in the first place.

Instead of telling my friend to chill out or offering any advice, I asked him to close his eyes and invited him to do an exercise that we had learned earlier that day.

We took a few slow breaths, and when we opened our eyes, we imagined that we had died and were given one last chance to look around and exist in the world.

I’m not sure if my friend felt better, but I did. My irritation about waiting for the subway, being tired, and all of the rest of my petty grievances with the world felt a little less heavy now that I had imagined that I had been given a final chance to experience what it felt like to be alive.

This week, when you inevitably start to feel yourself spiral, give the exercise a try.

Even if it seems silly, imagine that you have died and that the universe has given you a final chance to be here for some more time. I’m curious to know if it works for you as it did for me.

❤️ III. You Don’t Have to Be Good

I heard Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese,” for the first time this week. It’s a wonderful poem with a timeless message, but it’s her first line, “You do not have to be good” that shook me when I first read it.

I began to think about all of the anguish I’ve experienced in social situations, in the act of creation, and in my career, simply because I didn’t feel good enough for one reason or another.

While the emotional pain of not feeling good enough has been potent fuel for improving in certain domains, it has also created a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Being “good” is not the best measure of living well, and for most things, the compassionate response is simply to remember that you do not have to be good.

Here’s Oliver’s full poem:

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

🗣️ IV. Ultraspeaking

I had the opportunity to participate in the Creator Cohort of Ultraspeaking this week. Ultraspeaking is an online course designed to improve your public speaking in social situations, at work, and on stages.

I’m fairly comfortable in most of the situations in which I need to speak, and I wasn’t sure if I would gain much from taking the course.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The Ultraspeaking team has created a course that is not only fun and actionable, but that introduced me to new ways and techniques for using the spoken word as I navigate the world.

It’s the best speaking training on the internet and one of the most fun, well-designed courses I've seen across any subject. And beyond the speaking insights, I came away with a thoughtful and kind group of friends who made the experience something that I looked forward to every week.

They have a variety of course options that you can check out if you’re interested here: https://ultraspeaking.com/.

🧠 V. Something I’m Thinking About

When you die, you will never regret that you were too generous. For the next day, week, or month, try to be a little more generous than you’re comfortable with and see how it goes.

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

Maya Angelou

That's all for now. See you next Sunday.

— Cal

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