Letter On A Lifestyle Change

Dear X,

I’m sitting in Montreal right now – heading toward New York and it strikes me this might be my last nomadic travel for some time. Nomadic being in the sense that I am traveling between two places, neither of which is my home. After New York, I’ll be going to Chicago where I’ll stay for some time — punctuated, perhaps, by vacations away from there but always, at least while I have my job, to return.

In some way, this is the last leg of a lifestyle i’ve had for half of a decade. No home, no direction to one, No same bed in same neighborhood to burrow back after the hard times. The road became a friend, a confidant, and somehow a singular place to be.

Those were the scenes in my life these last years. Always changing — transitions of airports and packed bags. Goodbye waves and hello hugs. A coffee shop where no one knows my name or my story.

What lies ahead in this new life? I have no idea, but it’s worth thinking about, And this is my method. It comes to you because in some way I’ve always felt you were a champion, one of the greatest, of that old life and my hope is that I’m not letting you down. or letting down myself.

What you should know is that I’m more nervous than ever. Anxiety was always a cool distance away from me, but now I can feel it. The unknown. The hypotheticals that spin around and create worlds that will never exist, but who is to know that now.

It is, however, in this feeling that I’ve found excitement too. And strength. Kerouac, if I remember correctly, in the opening of The Subterraneans called this his “nervous orientation”.

And what that’s predicated upon is a newness.

It used to be that traveling gave me a newness, that before each flight I felt a nervousness. A new place. A new office. A new life I could set up if I was staying for some time. In some places, a new language and culture and parks to walk in on afternoons I wanted to step away from the computer.

But that stopped. Somewhere I grew comfortable in the unknown, content in moving from place to place, almost bored in some moments. What I certainly felt also was some loneliness and the long-termness of that often was hard to handle. I’m an extrovert in so many ways, and, though I’ve grown to love some introversive parts of myself, I crave others to be with, talk with, sleep with.

I had some of this everywhere I went, but it was never a guarantee. Always a question mark. For years, I saw the question mark as my embodiment. I lived it. It’s answer became my intention. Now, I am not so sure it is the symbol of ME, though I do not know what it is. So the question mark exists — but as a pre-front to the mission.

What’s coming next is exciting, both in its asking (professional work) and the opportunity of something drastic and new. Sitting down. Settling for a moment. Catching my breath and become a citizen of a place. I have no insight into how long that will last — or even how long I hope it does — but it’s an opportunity for newness and uniqueness, and those have always been my battle cry of life.

Somewhere, on some soft winter day, when the winds are staining me with cold, I know that travel bug will creep in. I know it’ll sit in the knots of my stomach, clawing at its sides, telling me to find the nearest highway and just go. The thoughts of freedom, when you don’t think you have it, are infinite and large. Powerful beyond any means, I imagine. It’s why so many billions of people have dreamt that dream. I will never claim to know that battle they fight, but I too seek freedom in my own way.

And, for us, our friendship. Well I hope it doesn’t ruin me for you. Hope it doesn’t scatter my image if that image was a traveler, a nomad, a do-it-by-his-own terms kind of guy. I don’t know what the image you have of me is and that’s a good thing — we should be allowed to construct others in the image we hope, so long as our expectations that they too are their own construct are not limited — but I hope it persists to be positive and inspiring. I hope there is still love for me in my pursuits and encouragement and not an end or destruction. I do not think there will be but it is with words I can extol my desires.

And so that it shall be. Gone, for now, are the days of reeling around Brooklyn or Buenos Aires, or reeling around at all. I am committed to finding happiness in this stage of my life, as I will with all future stages. And in the change, I’ll find both good and bad. I know this ahead of time, but keeping this intelligence on an even keel will be a battle. And when that travel bug runs itself up into my mind, I’ll do my best to remember that my previous lifestyle, too, had its good and bad.

What I’m certain to never forget is simple, however: you and the other friends I’ve been allowed into the hearts of along the traveling way, were always the best of the whole damn thing.

With admiration, always —

Eric Grant

July {reflection}

Mid-Year Reflections

July was an “off” month on challenges. I determined this back in my January planning phases — as a way to assess the larger goals of my yearlong project and perhaps set a stronger course going forward for the second half of 2015 based on what I learned in the first.

I’ve done so and with August beginning have changed my approach on goal-setting, in hopes of the self-systemization ideal that I started the year with. Here are some of the changes I’ve made:

Non-Categorization of Goals

I started the year with three categories of goals: Health, Writing, and Lifestyle. This categorization was meant to keep goals varied and expansive. The idea being that if I could succeed in goals across this spectrum, I could build a system or framework that would work on goals in any category. Doing all health or all writing might pigeon-hole me into successfully mastering one corner of my life but nothing bigger.

I don’t think I was wrong in this approach but it had the effect that I was actively trying to avoid. I got stuck in these categories and nothing else. Goal-setting was restricted and habits didn’t overlap as much as they could have. As I learned in April where I turned technology off at night which gave me time to roll out my muscular frame, goals that help one another succeed are ultimately beneficial.

So there won’t be categories going forward. I’ll just set goals on things I’d like to improve on my own life and work on the set-up of the goals so that are not in opposition, but rather in harmony with one another.

Focus On The Means, Not The End

The set up on previous months could aptly be described as this: figure it out. I’d set a lofty goal of something I’d like to accomplish and left myself completely open on how to actually do it. Months that had missed goals could really point back to this as a reason for failure. I didn’t focus on the means as much as the end and a month isn’t a long time for standard methods of discovery like trial and error.

Instead, new goals will focus on the how (or the means), and leave the larger ends unto themselves. If they’re hit, great, but their magnitude won’t be the only measure of success.

Instead, I’ll focus on repeatable smaller tasks which can build habits and create positive change. The actualization of these smaller tasks and habits will be the success factors, not an arbitrary degree to which a larger goal is achieved.

Carryover Goals

Many of the goals I’ve set in previous months were aimed at things I actively wanted to change about myself. Some were challenges to exceed my own expectations, but others were aimed at better living (as I saw it). I found myself in my “off” month of July wanting to continue some of these. Of course, I could do so — but giving it the guise of a challenge made it so much more imperative to my day-to-day.

So, starting in August, I’ll have at least one carryover goal each month. This is a goal I’ve done in the past that will be repeated with the hopes of building long(er) term character change. My hope is that some goals will be carryovers for multiple months and morph themselves into fully formed habits through that process. But that’s to be seen!

A New Theory of Distraction

““At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction,” the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, in 1839. Those were the days. Browning is still right, of course: ask any reader of Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary.”

View More

The Really Big One

“When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh.”

View More


June has come and gone. It was a great month in sunny Vancouver (and some in Victoria and some in Seattle too). I found myself with time to explore this new city, sit at the beach and the parks, and visits to the cities above—both for the first time.

As for my goals, there was mixed success (again), though I’d classify it as “mostly successful”. I used some strategies from previous months and learned some new lessons (and the old lesson of being more specific in how I phrase the goals).

I’ll be taking July off from the monthly goals for a mid-year assessment period, so these will be the last of the first set of goals. The whole experience has been great and I’ll talk in my analysis about some larger lessons learned.

So, how’d June go?

Floss [Lifestyle Goal]

Goal: Floss twice every day

Result: Complete!

This was a habit I’d been wanting to develop for some time now. Flossing is that perfect example of something I know is good for me—that I should be doing on a daily basis—but that had never been habitualized before.

This goal was rather easy to complete. I used the technique of tying this to something that was already a habit—brushing my teeth. Luckily, these already went together. I simply wouldn’t pick up my toothbrush until I had already flossed.

I found that after a floss and a brush, my teeth felt cleaner than usual. This was fairly obvious as a hypothesis but a pleasantly reaffirming consequence.

I hope to keep this one going—but certainly a success from June!

Work on Travel Ebook [Writing Goal]

Goal: Completed first draft

Result: Done! [to the extent any first draft can be complete of course….]

In May, I began formulating an idea of writing an ebook. The basic idea was collecting what I had learned from traveling around for the last 4 years while sustaining employment. I did some quick research and saw there really wasn’t much out there on this specific niche—and with the opportunity to self-publish being so easy these days (through Amazon’s portal for ebooks), I thought it’d be a fun project.

I started drawing up some notes and approached this month with the writing goal to get a first draft going.

As of now, I’ve written over 15,000 words (approx. 50 pages). I have a complete outline and every section has at least some content. Some sections are fully thought-out and developed, others exist in outline or note form. There are lots of notes on things needed.

So, certainly, there’s a lot more to do, but the foundation (“first draft”) is set. And I’m getting more excited about the project each day (a good sign).

Lose Weight [Health Goal]

Goal: Lose 8 pounds

Result: Completed once; overall not completed

Here’s a recurring lesson: goals can be both achieved and failed. This one is an example. The goal here was to lose 8 pounds. I weighed myself on June 1st in at 172.2 pounds. On June 20th, I weighed myself at 164 pounds (after a morning workout and not having eaten breakfast). So, goal achieved!

And, yet, by the month’s end, I had gained some of that weight back (thanks to a few days of drinking and not having my kitchen to make my meals). So I ended the month at 165.8—a failure on my goal.

So did I achieve it or not? Well that depends on interpretation on what a goal means? I did lose the 8 pounds, but it was not “lost” by month’s end. An interesting perspective challenge!

The real element here is the learning: one in how to cut weight (mostly with nutrient timing and more working out), AND the effect of environment on that. With a kitchen to cook and control meals, weight loss was relatively smooth (see the general trend in the first half of the graph). Once removed from that, it becomes a lot more difficult.

I tracked weight throughout the month, so I could put it into graph form. Here it is:


june weight loss annotated bigger


For now, I’ll have to consider this goal as “failed” (how I interepretted it). Thought there is some mixing in of success at having—at one point—lost those 8 pounds.


Another month and some habits tried and formed. I saw the second success of the strategy of tying one habit to another (already formed) habit. This will be something I take with me as I go forward.

The weight loss plan didn’t quite pan out—but there were certainly some success aspects to pull out of there. I learned a lot about nutrient timing and how diet and exercise interact with one another. I did lose a good sum of weight, but ultimately was unsuccessful because I was unprepared for a new environment. For the first few weeks of the month, I was at home and within walking distance of a gym. I walked a lot, worked out more, and ate exactly what I wanted to eat and when.

As I left Vancouver, I sacrificed a great deal of control over my environment. Of course, I anticipated this since this comes with travel—which I do quite often. One aspect of travel is an increase in environmental instability. You don’t get to control the happenings around you and the access level you have to certain accessories (think: groceries, gym, kitchen—just to name a few).

In Victoria & Seattle, I found myself eating every meal at a restaurant. I had limited access to a workout facility (though I was able to cheat the system a bit in Vic), and the days were not as open for my own planning (trains, boats, check-out times).

I do think it’s possible to keep habits up while traveling, albeit much more challenging. One needs a certain level of not only disciple, but patience and persistence to make these happen. My first months of 2015 proved that, but I’ve yet to be successful on each of my three goals in any month. What part of that is due to a environmental flux and what is due to my own lack of systemization?

That, dear readers, is the question to figure out through July—a month off of goals and dedicated to an assessment of what’s happened already and what I can do to be more successful ahead.

More next month!

Waxing [Cinematically]: Love & Mercy

Let’s start with a few simple facts on this one.

Love & Mercy is a music-focused biopic on Brian Wilson — member of the Beach Boys, producer, and noted recluse for much of the decades after creating some of the 1960s best pop music.

One of those creations was the 1966 album Pet Sounds.

Along with much of the music critics circle, I believe Pet Sounds is one of the best pop albums ever made. Maybe the best.

Love & Mercy shows much of the creation of Pet Sounds — a theatrical re-telling of Wilson’s genius in creating that album and putting life into the recordings you can find on his work.

These variables lead to an equation that made it very unlikely I would not LOVE or HATE Love & Mercy. Fortunately, it was the former.

This is a great biopic — not necessarily to keeping true to Wilson’s story (I don’t know enough about that, other than that the director worked with Wilson and his wife (who plays prominently in the movie) and had their permissions to create it.

The movie split his story into two — the younger Wilson as he grows to fame and decides that his talents are best kept at home where he can work on producing music — a smart move for a budding recording genius. Paul Dano plays this part and plays it with the nervous energy and chaotic genius that Wilson must have had to create something like Pet Sounds.

The second is his later life, somewhat in the midst of, but mostly after, the years of psychotic breakdown. This Brian Wilson was played by John Cusack (who looked just a bit too John Cusack-like to always pull the role off….we couldn’t add weigh or do anything there??? C’maaan!)

I won’t go too deep into the plot. It’s a true story, so the plot is essentially Wilson’s wikipedia page here.

The movie hits the right keys when we see Dano orchestrate Pet Sounds — an audicious album of so many instruments and sounds that rock n’ roll had never had (this was before, and a big influence to, the later Sgt. Peppers).

Dano’s Wilson is set on making the greatest album ever made. He has the music in his head and just needs to get it out on paper, no matter how complex it is, how many hours he needs to spend in the studio etc…All of this too while facing disbelief from his team of other Beach Boys, none of who had been in this kind of “sound” before, a father wrapped up in emotionally abusing Brian, AND the introduction of drugs into the scene and his own mind.

Crazy thing is, he damn near succeeded in doing it.

And through Bill Pohland’s lens we see how it all came together.

The joy was really in the reproduction of this genius and the sound Brian Wilson created. In the span of a few months, this man wrote ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, ‘Sloop John B’ and ‘Good Vibrations’. Those are three titans in the pantheon halls of rock/pop music — and good enough to hold against any four Beatles songs.

And that’s not going into the albums underrated hits (‘Here Today’, ‘I Know There’s An Answer’,’That’s Not Me’).

I’m losing the movie  a bit in this waxing here and I can tell but the musical element is just so damn strong. It’s what you take away from the movie and the great joy of seeing this displayed. Great albums don’t just arrive one day. They’re crafted, written, edited, re-recorded. There’s men, or in this case, a man, behind the construction. That man is baring his soul and crafting a ‘David’ in his own sense. As we see, this almost killed Brian Wilson (and some others almost did too). Luckily, we have his albums. And perhaps even more miraculously, we have him back.