The Alternate Life Commandments

This is a guest article by Dan Kern


Most humans are in challenged pursuit of (near) universal desires.

Religions, societies, cultures and individuals apply varying classifications to each…but distilled to their core, most of us lead a life-long pursuit of the following:

  • Physical wellbeing
  • Clarity of the mind
  • Passion
  • Success
  • A positive legacy
  • Continuous self-improvement
  • Love & acceptance

Commitment to each should come easy in theory. Physical wellbeing supports a long healthy life… Success generates status and financial wealth to purchase incredible things… And passion infuses elusive meaning and fulfillment into our lives. You get it…sign me up!

So why do people struggle so mightily to sustain diets, a driven work-ethic, exercise routines, and hobby generation/practice? Well, because life is remarkably difficult. It’s dynamic as hell and pulls our attention in every direction imaginable day to day. And when we’re not distracted by external forces, hard-coded mental and physical habits (many undesirable) dominate our daily routine. In autopilot, we often make decisions that are not aligned with the intentions of our “ideal self”. We humans are painfully shortsighted when it comes to our ability to consistently find present-moment motivation to embody a lifestyle that leads us towards attainment of long-term aspirations.

I fancy myself an expert on the matter. Not at all because I’ve cracked the code and am the self-actualizing master. No, kind of the opposite actually. My specialty to date, rather, is in committing to, starting, stopping, and ultimately missing lofty goals. I’m like a spark factory without anything laying around to catch fire. I adore self-help materials and philosophies that address the tricky science of habits and I aspire to join the front-line ranks of the bio hacking self-optimization movement that’s swelling in popularity around the world. But, as with my unreliable meditation practice, my commitment is spotty, and I remain largely unchanged at age 28 despite having what I thought were all the right intentions…

Time to radically shift my mindset. I know that habits form in response to a consistent reward… so I considered how I can tweak the Action<<>>Reward relationship to tap into “purposes” that are more inherently motivating to me. To create rewards that are attainable in the short-near term. To enjoy rewards that are more consistently tangible and that fortify the richness of my personal legacy (liking the way I look in the mirror 6 months from now just doesn’t cut it for me when I look at a treadmill). The Alternate Life Commandments represent where I’ve netted out on this thought process. According to these, I defined clear purpose that holds me accountable to aggressive self-actualization goals:

Exercise… to activate deeply memorable experiences

  • Strong fitness allows us to consistently pursue and conquer life’s epic “summits”.
  • Many of the most memorable places/experiences on earth are far off the beaten path. Never allow physical shortcoming to hold you back from greatness.
  • Anecdote:Fatigue thwarted my first summit attempt of Mt Shasta. Not only did I forfeit the experience, but it weighed negatively on me for years…. Last year I trained hard and blitzed it a decade later – Redemption was oh so sweet.

Exercise so your body is not a physical limitation to experiencing your dreams

Meditate… to fully internalize life’s wonderful moments

  • Mindful peace and presence gift-wrap our memories – Inversely, a hyperactive mind or addiction to social media spoil them.
  • We cannot fully appreciate a beach chill, sunrise summit, or simple walk in the park unless our minds are engulfed in the present moment.
  • Mid-experience meditation may amplify a moment’s serenity, but we must practice mindfulness regularly to win the battle against our subconscious.
  • Anecdote:When training for a triathlon 2 years ago, I biked across Golden Gate Bridge to Hawk Hill regularly… Every morning, overlooking an identical view, I pulled out my iPhone to capture a few SnapChat panos. This habit was a result of my weak mindfulness – It literally pulled the world into my personal moment, tainting the experience.

Practice mindfulness so your life experiences are pure and deeply memorable

Create Career Success… to pursue and master amazing hobbies

  • One of my favorite quotes, from Jerry Seinfeld, frames the importance of owning strong hobbies: “A person’s coolness is determined by the extent to which they’re about what they’re about.”
  • Success, managed properly, generates leisure time and disposable income to support hobbies and continued learning.
  • We earn days off, we’re promoted to the role that calls the shots, we’re permitted to work from home, we build a business (or team)under our success that is self-sustaining.
  • Success-enabled-passions ultimately generate fulfillment in life.
  • Anecdote:I’m exploring the world for a year while maintaining my job because I earned it through dedicated grinding.

Work hard to ultimately spend more time doing the things you genuinely love

Purge Social Media… to fortify relationships with those you love

  • Research suggests that humans can maintain ~5 intimate relationships at once – This limit is dependent on the time an individual has to invest in deep and consistent connection.
  • Psychology experts confirm that relationship qualityis far more important to our wellbeing than relationship quantity.
  • Next time you pick up your phone to troll social media….call a loved one instead, or a friend that feels increasingly distant – The time needed to otherwise check in on 1000+ “friends” across 3+ networks is ample, trust me.

Trade poisonous time spent on social media for relationship enriching moments with those you love 

Practice Frugality… to reduce stress

  • Notorious BIG had it all wrong… at least for the consciously frugal… it should absolutely be “mo money lessproblems” or perhaps corrected to ”mo things mo problems.”
  • Everything we buy/own is something to damage, lose, regret, or neglect. All of which create a combination of stress, disappointment, and more spending.
  • Focus on the essentials and make select quality purchases (from your basic black T to your first home).
  • Build a rainy day fund to easily brush off the flight rebooking fee, phone dropped in the pool, or taxi from the airport because you just want to get home, dammit.

Be frugal to simplify life and eliminate crippling financial stress

Travel Adventurously… to break the habit of being you

  • We love travel because it forcefully turns our tired routines inside out.
  • Fresh sites, cultures, and perspectives paired with experiences that push the limits of our comfort zone put us in personal growth mode.
  • Time away from the rat race gives us moments to reflect deeply on the status of our lives and set a corrected course moving forward.
  • Introduce yourself to the local, join the expat couple going on a mountain bike, and chart a course far off the beaten path. Push the boundaries of your habitual self.

Pursue international adventures to accelerate self-actualization

Eat well… for a healthy body and mind fuel success in each practice.

Drink less… for alcohol poisons the well of each practice.

There you have it, the Alternate Life Commandments. Which, if any, resonate most strongly with you?