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


One Habit to Rule Them All: Learning the Habit Creating Habit from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

#Bp One Ring by Trev Grant, Leo Babauta, Zen habits, the habit creating habit, writing habits, sea chane, zen_habits, motivation, habit creation, how to create new habits, change your life, mindfulness habitsSea Change
This month I joined the Sea Change program, which is Leo Babuta’s program to create habit changing ninjas.

The Sea Change program is as simple as it is awesome. Take on one new habit each month. By the end of the year you will have 12 new habits. And built the most important habit of all.

The habit creating habit.

This month the habit was writing daily. As part of this month’s program Leo hosted a webinar to talk about daily writing and habit creation.
Leo Babauta, Zen habits, the habit creating habit, writing habits, sea chane, zen_habits, motivation, habit creation, how to create new habits, change your life, mindfulness habits

Habit and A Snow Covered Field
At the start of the webinar, Leo asked us to visualize a picture of a wide-open field of snow. “In that field you can walk anywhere you want to. At the beginning you’re making your own path so everything is new.”

“At first you go somewhere and then you follow your own footsteps back. The first time it’s hard and the second time it’s easier. Each time you go it’s a little bit easier.”

“Now you have a path that’s much easier to walk on. And walking off the path becomes harder.”

This is a great explanation of how our first habits are formed. Often these habits are formed not with intention, but out of necessity.

Groove Creation
Next Leo discussed how we get stuck and how we can start to get out.

“Now let’s say you’ve been going in the same path for years. If we want to change, first we have to step through fresh snow. We have to be very conscious when we create this new groove.”

To change our grooves takes intention, effort, and vision. Leo makes a point to note how important that vision is.

The Vision
“Imagine you see a new bakery and you decide to go there. The path to the bakery is covered with fresh untrampled snow, which means walking there will be harder.”

“ But we can see the bakery and having this vision helps keep us on track. We think of this new place as we trudge through the fresh snow. And it gives us a reason to keep going.”

This vision is our destination. We have to know where we’re going or we we’ll just wander. Without the vision we’d get lost or worse yet, turn back.

Going Back
“So what stops us from going back to our old habits? The truth is that it’s easier to go back. The snow is already trampled.”

But we can use tools to keep us going forward. These tools are the tools of habit creation. These tools make up the habit creating habit.

10 Tips to Create the One Habit to Rule Them All
(As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)

1. Support – Tell someone that you’re going to do it.
Leo used the example of telling his editor and his readers he was going to finish his book at a certain time. The fact that he had made a commitment to others helped him stay focused.

2. Accountability Bet – For this Leo used the example of a bet he made with a friend who ran a tea company. If the friend failed to complete a task on time, he had to go to a teashop he didn’t respect.

Once there he had to drink the tea, wear a T-shirt with their logo, and have a video taken of him. In the video he’d be drinking the tea while wearing the shirt and saying how much he loved their tea.

The bet was fun and mostly inexpensive. But it was motivating because the pain of humiliation was worse that the joy of procrastination.

3. Intentions – Leo encourages us to ask, “What is my motivation?” When he sits to write something he thinks about the people he wants to help. Bringing this intention to mind motivates him to work even when he doesn’t feel like it.

4. Rewards – Leo said, “It’s important to have something pleasurable with each step you take.” This reward could be the joy of creating or the joy of reporting to an accountability group. No matter what, it’s about using the carrot and not just the stick to keep you going.

5. Setting – Having a good working environment is an essential element to creating. Of course having a visually pleasing working environment is the first step. But Leo also includes good music and gratitude as keys to creating a positive setting for creation.

6. Accountability Groups – Part of the Sea Change program is taking part in accountability groups. But you don’t have to be a member of Sea Change to start your own. These groups can be formed by anyone that wants support in changing their lives.

According to Leo the keys to a successful accountability group are
1. Meet on a regular basis.
2. Make commitments to each other.
3. Live up to these commitments.
4. Have some kind of consequence for not meeting commitments.
5. Report your progress.

How to stop getting off track:
Tips 7 – 10 are all about how to stop the things that get you off track. And they all involve “lowering the barriers to creation.”

7. Stop saying, “I need everything to be perfect.”
The perfect creative environment doesn’t exist. So instead of making it a complex process, Leo tells us to, “make it simple, close your programs, open a text doc, and get to work.”

8. Stop thinking, “I need to create the perfect…”
Instead, Leo recommends we say, “I just need to get this done,” and go for it. “Start with a crappy first draft and send it out to people you trust.” Getting started on creating a new habit is more important than doing it perfectly or even well.

9. Stop keeping it to yourself.
You should always have someone to send your work to. Leo notes that having an audience, even if it’s a small one, gives us a purpose when we create. It also keeps us honest about what we are creating.

10. Frictionless blogging
One practice Leo does is something he calls ‘Frictionless blogging”

He says, “I just write a post and then post it immediately.” Just to get the post out there. It removes all the barriers and then I am motivated to quickly edit it.

This practice can work with whatever we are working on. Just create and then disseminate. Not only will it hone your mind while you create, but it will keep you from being caught in endless editing or futzing about.

Though many of these tips apply to creation or writing, I found they could be applied to any aspect of creating new habits in my life. Whether is comes to exercise or eating better using these tools will help you create new grooves.

It’s through this process that we learn the habit creating habit and become the masters of the one habit to rule them all.

Photo Credits


Do Stuff You Don’t Like

Do Stuff You Don’t LikePicture of Ship Wreck Door Hanger

I hate doing stuff I don’t like. I know BIG REVELATION, right?

I made a career out the pursuit of novelty and the art of avoiding challenges. I have a resume with over 30 jobs to prove it.
(Curious? I’ll list them all at the end of this post.)

My Life

Most of my life I have sought out the, illusive “cool job”

I always thought I was ahead of the game. I thought, “ If I’m willing to go anywhere to find happiness, I‘ll be happy.”

I would look around and find a cool job. I would purse it with vigor. I wouldn’t stop until I got it.

Once I got it, I would study it and break it down. I’d bask in the glory, because I had the coolest job in the world.

Damn You Impermanence
But, nothing lasts forever.

Inevitably, the novelty would wear off. Then I would be stuck in a job that was hard, that I didn’t care about, and that bored me to tears.

I went through this cycle repeatedly:
· Idea/Pursuit
· Acquisition
· Excitement/Love
· Stagnation
· Boredom/Frustration
· Abandonment

Eventually, I started to lose hope.

Maybe, there wasn’t a perfect job out there. Maybe, I didn’t have a calling in life. Maybe my life was pointless.

I kept looking for the perfect thing. Alas, the idea in my head never matched the reality on the ground.

One Important Thing
So, what did having all these jobs teach me?

No matter how many jobs you have, No matter how many times you change careers, you always have to do something you don’t like.

This lesson took me forever to learn. But, it taught me how I could work with doing things I don’t like.

This phrase is on a plaque in my childhood home. Translation? Quit your bellyaching!

This is the key to doing things we don’t like

As long as we bitch, moan, and complain about something, we can’t accept it. Complaining = Resisting, Resisting = Misery

When we accept:

  • We stop resisting.
  • We acknowledge a hard fact.
  • We set the intention to work with it.

I’m not suggesting you just give up and say, “OK, I’ll just keep the job I hate. Acceptance and discouraged surrender are not the same things.

Instead, we must accept that there will always be things we don’t like to do.

Great Wall

Border of Difficulty
Your border of difficulty lies at the edge of your resistance zone. Every time I do something that’s hard for me, my border of difficulty expands.

If I avoid what I don’t like my border of difficulty shrinks.

If I lived like this, by the time I’m my parent’s age I’ll be in a tiny box. My own resistance will surround me.

Choose Your Own Adventure
We have a choice. We can choose to resist and suffer and give into this cycle or we can choose to live our life.

We must embrace those hard things that make life better. We have to find what motivates us, when it’s no fun.

For me that thing is teaching, mindfulness, and fitness. Running my own business, I do things I don’t like all the time.

But I love working with people. I love helping people change their lives. So, for me it’s worth it.

MindFitMove Practice
Now it’s your turn.

Just answer this one question:

What makes or would make doing what you don’t like worth it?

Thanks for reading here is my job list (In reverse order):

  • 1. Founder of the Mindful Fitness Movement
  • 2. Political Phone Bank Manager
  • 3. Field Organizer for Political Campaign
  • 4. Enrichment Teacher At A Preschool
  • 5. Head of marketing at a Zen Monastery
  • 6. House Manager at a Mississippi Studios
  • 7. Ticket Taker Mississippi Studios
  • 8. Ski instructor at Timberline
  • 9. Merchandise Rep for Phil Vassar
  • 10. Merchandise Rep For Nashville Merch Company
  • 11.Business consultant
  • 12. Shipping Room Worker
  • 13. Stage Manager for the Gin Blossoms
  • 14. Guitar Tech For the Gin Blossoms
  • 15. Retail clerk,
  • 16. President of Indie Music Organization Start Up
  • 17. Manager of Artist Development Dist Company
  • 18. Rep for On Site Marketing firm
  • 19. Office Assistant
  • 20. Rep for Reggae Record Company
  • 21. Greenpeace Canvas Team Leader
  • 22. PIRG Canvasser
  • 23. Glass Art Salesman
  • 24. Paid High School Wrestling Coach
  • 25. White House Gift Shop Clerk
  • 26. Men’s Clothing Sales Rep
  • 27. Server at Joes Crab Shack
  • 28. Host At Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • 29. Car Detailer
  • 30. Ran a Sumo Chicken Boxing Ring
  • 31. Baby sitter
  • 32. Bag Boy at Kroger