February 2010

Auckland

I’ve made a terrible miscalculation. Have you ever been so sure you knew someone inside and out, and then you discover something about them that completely contradicts everything you thought you knew? Denial can make you blind to it, especially if you’ve really been counting on that particular person to fill a certain role in your life. Well, that happened to me last week.

The great majority of you only know me through what I write, but that’s probably given you a pretty revealing view of my outlook on life. By now you know what I think about humanity and the potential of individuals. I get gushing emails and comments from all sorts of people thanking me for showing them a positive perspective or helping them out of a bad mood.

Raptitude has always been about empowerment and happiness. My interest is finding more skillful ways to cultivate joy and appreciate life. I write about gratitude and wisdom and all things positive. But you knew that.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the person I was mistaken about was me. Recently I learned something about myself that I never suspected, and it was a bit of a shock. Read More


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A private room at a mansion-turned-hostel in Nelson

Since I left home four months ago I’ve slept on 49 different beds, couches and other horizontal surfaces. I never quite know what the conditions will be like next, and sometimes I have to contend with an unexpected absence of privacy, internet access, or some other ingredient that is crucial to timely blogging. I think I’ve mentioned this once or twice. Attitudes and moods, too, are constantly in flux, with the plot and cast of my little adventure here changing all the time.

I’m typing this post quietly on while sitting on bed #49 (a creaky bunk in a small hostel room.) A Japanese teenager is sleeping on the other bunk, and my internet connection keeps going in and out.

So that’s my way of saying that today’s post will just be a post (as in “to keep you posted”), not the article I was planning. Thursday’s article, which was to be today’s, is important to me and I wanted to give it due attention.

But I do have a few things worth mentioning in the mean time:

Experiment No. 5 is going about as well as expected. My effort to stop griping is slowly working, but I’m discovering a lot about myself, as well as the nature of negativity itself. This one is going to be interesting. My progress is being recorded in the progress log.

Thursday’s article will contain a shocking revelation (!) about myself. Or maybe it’s not so shocking. Be sure to tune in.

The deadline is extended for the The Book of Awesome contest! To recap, I’m going to be interviewing Neil Pasricha, the man behind 1000 Awesome Things, for his book release this April 15. All you have to do is send me an interesting, thoughtful, or otherwise awesome interview question, via the Contact page. If I pick your question Neil will send you an autographed copy of the book, made out to anyone you like. You don’t have to do anything else!

I’m loving the entries so far, but I would like a few more so I can stitch together a consistent tone throughout this Frankenstein of an interview. So the new deadline is March 8, that’s two more weeks. Full details are here.

Raptitude’s first birthday is coming up. March 15th was a bad day for Julius Caesar, but I’ll always remember that date as the day I launched this blog. Hard to believe it’s only been a year. Thanks so much for reading! And your emails and comments! I always love hearing from you.

Photo by David Cain


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fern

New Zealand is a black sheep among nations. Having spent the last 60 million years isolated from the rest of the continents — longer than any other major land mass — life has had a long time to do its own thing here. The vast majority of native trees and animals are found nowhere else. They’ve all learned their own tricks for contending with their unique surroundings. In particular, many birds, including the iconic Kiwi, found no reason to bother flying because there was nothing on the ground that would eat them.

An important lesson from a clever plant

One of the more unusual New Zealand plants is the Lancewood. Most of the specimens you’ll encounter look something like a tall broomstick decorated with menacing, saw-like leaves. They are rigid and serrated, and angled downwards towards you or any other potential assailant.

A young Lancewood

The Lancewood has a very bizarre feature: It completely transforms itself after reaching a certain level of maturity. Its long, toothed leaves give way to more lush, more conventional broad leaves. It actually begins to look like other trees. The plant’s two forms are so unlike each other biologists once thought they were two totally different trees.

A mature Lancewood

Biologists couldn’t understand why a plant would evolve to do that. When an organism develops a distinct quirk like that, there tends to be an evolutionary reason for it. In other words, it must help the life form out somehow.

Some scientists guessed that the serrated, downward-pointing leaves served as a defence against large, ground-dwelling plant-eaters while it was still small enough to be vulnerable. But there was a problem with this theory: New Zealand doesn’t have any large, ground-dwelling plant-eaters. The island nation doesn’t have any native land mammals at all, only chicken-sized flightless birds that couldn’t pose a threat to a plant that size.

The Lancewood’s odd behavior remained a mystery for some time. Read More


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Lockers

Once upon a time…

At 3:45pm Friday afternoon, the corner of Fermor and St Mary’s was a busy place. The intersection is dominated by Glenlawn Collegiate, a brown brick complex that happens to be my alma mater. It’s one of the division’s two high schools, virtually unchanged in the eleven years since I graduated except for the addition of red LEDs on the sign outside.

I happened to be passing by right at that time for no particular reason.

The teenagers in the giddy mob at the bus stop looked a lot younger than I remember being in high school. At the time I figured seventeen was about a year away from being a proper adult, but these kids were definitely children. Loud and aimless. Maybe we were too.

The number fourteen and the number fifty-five rolled in one behind the other, brakes whining, and most of the mob funneled in. When the light changed, both buses pulled away, and that’s when I spotted him.

His identity didn’t register for a moment, but his hurried, self-conscious gait appeared so shockingly familiar to me that I froze. He was wearing grey, baggy cargo pants with ragged bottoms and a drab green t-shirt that was too big for him. His hair was a half-messed mop of gel-hardened spikes.

He was walking towards me, looking over at the departing buses, and we almost collided. When he caught my bewildered stare, I realized who he was.

It was me. At eighteen.

He was stunned too, but clearly knew who I was. Suddenly I felt a lot older than my twenty-nine years. Knowing him, I knew I would have to take the initiative here. I recovered, and smiled. He didn’t.

“You missed the fourteen.”

“Yeah I know.”

“We’ve got twenty minutes or so till the next one. We should talk,” I said, hopeful.

“Sure.”

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Imagine if you had a golden opportunity to talk to your eighteen year-old self. Read More


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The book of awesome

If you haven’t yet stumbled across a remarkable blog called 1000 Awesome Things, you may want to check your internet connection. Each weekday since June 2008, blogger Neil Pasricha has been celebrating one undeniably awesome thing everyone knows. Not awesome like the Hindenburg explosion awesome, but awesome like the first shower you take after not showering for a really long time awesome. Or the moment at the concert when the crowd figures out what song they’re playing awesome.

Neil has an incredible knack for identifying the tiny unsung miracles that make our lives glimmer, so it’s no surprise he’s struck a chord with a lot of people. 1000 Awesome Things has featured on such media heavyweights as CNN, CBC Radio, the BBC, Wired Magazine, and a humbling list of others.

Back in May, I wrote a post about three notable blogs, one of which was Neil’s. He paid a visit to Raptitude, apparently liked what he saw and dropped me a line, and we’ve been back-and-forthing ever since.

This April, Neil and his awesome things will emerge in book form as THE BOOK OF AWESOME, and he’s giving a few lucky Raptitude readers a chance to win their very own autographed copy. And not a Lotto 649 kind of chance, a seriously decent chance.

Here’s how it works:

To commemorate the April 15 release of THE BOOK OF AWESOME, I will be conducting a short interview with Neil.

I have often remarked that Raptitude’s readership is one of the most thoughtful and interesting groups of people in these parts of the internet, and Neil agrees. So we’ve decided to let YOU interview Neil.

I am seeking a few (3-5) interesting, intriguing or otherwise AWESOME questions to ask Neil during the interview. Send your question to me (one question only please) and I’ll pick my interview questions from the entries I receive. I’m looking for questions that will make for an awesome interview, so be creative. Read More


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No complaining

Time for another experiment. This one I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. The idea behind it has made the rounds for a few years now and I’m not the first to do it, but I think the concept is fascinating and brimming with potential.

One day Will Bowen, a mild-mannered Missouri Reverend, challenged his congregation to develop their habit of gratitude by going 21 consecutive days without complaining or criticizing.

His method was quite simple and ingenious: Read More


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