How To Deal With Stupid & Pointless Assignments

For most of high school, I thought many of my teachers were idiots. I didn’t think they were bad at teaching, it’s just that I thought many of the assignments they gave us were pointless: rote memorization, filling out worksheets, papers on inconsequential topics, etc.

My life was filled with pointless stupid assignments I was doomed to execute. This experience continued into my work life. “If you have time to lean you have time to clean” is a phrase I’ve heard more often than I care to admit.

Some of these tasks seemed to have value while others seemed like busywork created simply to extract as much labor from me as possible even if that labor was largely pointless.

Like many people I dreamed of the day I might work for myself and end this barrage of pointless work. But alas the epoch of meaningless tasks haunts me still.

My company is incorporated in Nevada, a state that requires a use tax. But since I don’t actually conduct any of my business in Nevada I’m exempt. Yet I still have to file an empty use tax return every. single. month. Pointless.

Slowly I began to see that life, human life, with governments and health insurance is a life filled with pointless assignments and tasks. There is no escaping it. But I wanted freedom so I created it. By refusing to do anything pointless ever again.

Here is how:

1) Accept that I don’t always see what is and isn’t pointless.

For example, I thought math was mostly dumb in school. After all, when would I need to use math in my adult life. That’s why humans invented calculators. Yet I have built amazing spreadsheets to analyze sales data, do my own finances, and create forms for my clients. All of which are based on the logic I learned in math class. True I probably don’t need to know trigonometry, but having a basic understanding of how logic works has been incredibly valuable.

This step isn’t really about whether something is or isn’t pointless and stupid. It’s really just about accepting that I may not see why I need to do something. It’s an invitation to relax and be open to the idea that something could have value even if I can’t see it.

2) Realize that thinking something is stupid, pointless, or a waste of time is simply a judgment, assessment, and interpretation I’m making.

For a long time, I felt firm in my conviction that making a bed is a pointless act. After all, I’m just going to get back in it at the end of the day. I felt similarly about cleaning. I felt like cleaning dishes mattered, but not much else, everything fell victim to entropy so why try and fight it.

If you had visited my home at any point in my early to mid-twenties you would have seen this philosophy born out in empty pizza boxes and scattered clothing.

I interpreted cleaning as meaningless because I couldn’t see the impact it had on my mind, my self-respect, and the feeling tone of my home. To my twenty year old self, cleaning was mostly meaningless. To my nearly forty year old self, cleaning is an essential part of self-love and of integrity. So much so that I even make my bed when I leave a hotel.

The key here ISN’T that my twenty year old self was wrong, but rather that it was just one of many ways of viewing cleaning. My nearly forty year old self view is also just one of many. The difference is that viewing cleaning as an act of self-love feels more empowering, enlivening, and also increases other people’s ability to enjoy my home.

If everything is an interpretation then you can take anything that’s pointless and give it meaning. You can also take something that has a lot of meaning (you don’t like) and make it pointless.

A capacity that’s essential for leaders and anyone seeking depth through personal growth.

3) Realize that I can choose to create meaning and empower anything that I do.

Once I realized that I was making up that things were stupid or cool I began to realize I had the power to shift how I felt about things.

The first time I really saw this was when I was at the monastery cleaning toilets. The cleaning kits we had included big rubber gloves that were always several sizes too big. This made the process of scrubbing toilets difficult and awkward. At first, I felt frustrated by the gloves, by having to clean the toilets, and by how gross it all was.

But at the monastery, we were constantly encouraged to look at things with compassion and curiosity. So one day I decided to clean the toilet without the gloves.

I watched as my aversion to touching toilets arose, but I realized it was just a judgment. I began to see the love I was demonstrating in my actions. Here was a thing no one wanted to deal with, but dealing with it meant a lot. If the toilets were left unclean they would smell worse and worse. The aversion in others using it would grow. People would be more and more careless.

But as I cleaned I was taking all of that aversion on. I was creating a space that would have people feel more comfortable in a space that’s hard for many people to feel comfortable in.

I began to see the remains of this very human process of expelling waste as an expression of life. What I was doing was just like weeding a garden or wiping a child’s nose. It was an expression of love.

Slowly I began to empower this act that I found aversive. Once I had done that I could apply it to every part of my life. Parking in a spot further away was a gift to someone who couldn’t walk as well as me. Buying a slightly dented can meant someone else got a nice pristine one.

More and more I realized how much control I had over how I empowered things and so I started empowering things that I used to feel victimized by.

Instead of going to class and feeling bored because I ‘already knew’ what they were talking about, I saw how I could study the way the teacher taught and figure out what was and wasn’t working.

Instead of feeling annoyed when I missed my bus I saw each missed bus as a discovered moment to read or meditate.

Slowly and surely I began to transform the pointless into the meaningful.

It didn’t mean I didn’t try to eliminate excess work. I still looked for effective ways to get things done and eliminate excess tasks, but when I encountered something that I couldn’t work around easily I began to look for how to empower them.

Not only did my experience of my life change, but very often I found a way to learn something new from something I would have considered a waste of time before.

This is the miracle of discovering meaning in the meaningless. And it’s something you can discover too if you’re only willing to give it a shot.

Love, Toku


A Extra Weekly Run Saved My Relationship

Couple Holding Hands, communication, relationship awareness, working with your partners fear, transformation, mindfulness, mindful fitness, mindfitmove

Tips for Transformation In Relationship 

I started saying, “You know it might be helpful if…”

But she interrupted me, “I know what you’re going to say; you think it would be better if we ran alone.”

I knew I had hit a nerve.

We both knew my goal pace was faster than hers. But maybe it came off sounding like my goal pace was to get away from her.  

No matter what, it was clear we had to come up with a solution. We did eventually, but I’ll come back to that. 

The Partnership 

Changing your life can be hard on your partner. No matter how supportive they are, it tends to create tension.

It’s wonderful that you’ve started meditating, exercising, or learning a new language. But this shift can bring up fear for your partner.


 This fear is very natural. Most people have had a relationship end, soon after their partner changed in some way. Even though that may be the last thought in your head, your partner isn’t in your head.

Your partner may feel neglected in your quest for a better self. They might be scared by the new direction of your life. They may wonder if there’s a place in it for your relationship.

This fear can bring up some of these thoughts:

  • All he talks about is triathlons. Am I not good enough?
  • Does she think she’s better than me?
  • More vegetables? What’s wrong with what we cooked before?
  • I feel like every time he leaves for a run he’s judging me.
  • If she wants to do new things, maybe she will want to be with a new woman?

You Need Back Up

Making changes are hard enough without having your partner sabotage you. So if you are going to be successful. You will need their help. Or at least their passive consent.

So here are the keys to making your journey of transformation jive with your relationship.


Make sure you acknowledge the things you love about your partner. Let them know you appreciate how they contribute to your life. Pay special attention to the little things they do that may go unnoticed.

Don’t Judge

Let them know you aren’t judging them for not being vegetarian or for not working out. Let them know you love them and that you are changing so you can be a better person and partner.

Don’t Get Preachy

Don’t get preachy about your new changes. Just work on yourself. If your partner sees it working for you, they might ask for support to make their own change.

Be Clear on Why

Explain to your partner why you are making these changes. If you are clear about your intentions, it will assuage many of their fears. It may even garner their support.

Togetherness Time

Make time and space to spend time together. This how my partner and I found our solution.

We would do our long run separately, but we would warm up and cool down together. We would also do a bonus ‘Togetherness Run” on Friday so we could spend time talking about our week.

MindFitMove Practice

If you are in a relationship, have a family, or just have a less active friend, sit down and talk about a healthy way to spend time together.  

Share ideas like going on a hike, going for walks, and see what sounds good.

The goal is to find a healthy way to get active and spend time with each other.

Make an effort to meet them where they are. You aren’t likely to convert your partner to CrossFit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something that will make you both happy.

Photo Credits



Your Thoughts Don’t Matter

Your Thoughts Don’t Matter

Many people, who work in the realm of personal improvement, including personal trainers and coaches, engage in the practice of labeling thoughts ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ They use techniques like visualization and thought replacement. The goal is to generate ‘positive’ thinking and banish ‘negative’ thoughts.

The problem is they often create anxiety around ‘negative’ thoughts. They insist we must avoid this thinking at all cost. But avoiding negative thoughts is about as easy as avoiding sunshine.

Ironically by trying to avoid ‘negative’ thinking we actually empower it. The true power of our thoughts comes from how we react to them. When we react strongly the thoughts grow in power and duration.

Anxious Alvin
Alvin is at mile ten of a half marathon. He is getting tired and the thought pops into his head, “This is too hard!” This is his first half, so this thought scares the bajebus out of him.

Questions begin to spin through his mind: “What if I don’t make it?” “What will my friends and family think?” “Why can’t I ever finish anything I start?” “What did I get myself into?”

As these thoughts grip Alvin his anxiety grows. His breath becomes shallow and his feet feel heavy. He feels his motivation lag. He starts to feel light-headed; he slows down, and starts to walk. He eventually finishes the race, but is disappointed with his performance.

It would be easy to blame Alvin’s performance on lack of character or strength of will. Perhaps we think he should have willed himself to not think about how hard it was or maybe he should just have trained harder. In either case we are missing the reason why Alvin’s thoughts grew into such a big problem.

Cool Chloe
Let’s take the same situation, but this time with a different perspective. Chloe is at mile ten of a half marathon. She is getting tired and the thought pops into her head, “This is too hard!” but Chloe has run many half marathons.

She knows this is the hardest part of the race. But she’s been here before and has faith that she’ll make it. She may worry briefly, but ultimately the thought merely vanishes. She finishes the race and achieves a personal best.

A Seasoned Beginner
In both of these examples the thought is the same “This is too hard!” The difference is that Alvin indulges the thought and it grows, while Chloe just let the thought go. Some of this comes from experience, but you don’t have to be a veteran to think like one. It is possible to face each new challenge from the cool Chloe perspective.

Whenever you take on a big challenge at some point, “This is too hard!” will pop into your head. The trick to being like Chloe is not to vanquish these thoughts, but to accept them as they arise.

Seeing Is The First Step To Letting Go
This is where mindfulness comes into play. When we practice mindful fitness our goal is to observe the mind without judgment.

When a thought arises we simply notice the thought, doing our best not to judge. We look to see what body sensations arise with the thought. We might notice our breath gets shallow, or we furrow our brow. Most importantly we don’t try to ‘fix’ the thought. We just let it be.

By observing our thoughts instead of trying to fix them we withhold their power over us. Each time we observe, even a little bit, we begin to grow space around our thoughts. As the space grows, it’s easier to let go of the thoughts without getting all worked up.

MindFitMove Practice:
Choose 1 – 3 ‘negative’ thought(s) that often arise when you workout or think about working out. Then one at a time repeat each thought in your mind and write down some observations:

  1. What do I feel in my body as I hold this thought?
  2. What other thoughts come along with this thought?
  3. What does my body do when I think these thoughts?

For one week, try and notice when these thoughts or their related sensations arise. Try to observe each thought without judging. If you get caught up anyway that’s ok, but notice that you got caught up.

At the end of the week revisit this list and write down anything else you notice. The hard part of this exercise is to avoid coming up with a strategy to defeat the thoughts. The purpose of this practice is to learn to observe your thoughts without judgment.

You don’t need to be fixed. You already have the tools you need for your transformation. The trick is to trust your own wisdom and to get out of your own way. Mindfulness is the first, second, and final practice that enables your true power to emerge.