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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Monday, June 30, 2008

Flip Your Karma: 8 Tricks to Turn the Bad Into the Awesome

Article written by Leo Babauto, author of the popular blog, Zen Habits.
Published here with expressed permission via uncopywrite.

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese proverb

It's inevitable; sometimes, life just doesn't go your way.

Your schedule gets all messed up. You fail to follow your exercise plan. Someone is mean to you. You feel like quitting something. You want to curl into a little ball and cry.

Life deals out its' blows, and leaves us discouraged, angry, frustrated, depressed, drained. And once we're in that bad place, in a mood where we just don't care about anything, it's pretty hard to get out of it.

But let me share a little secret to happiness and self-improvement here: all that stuff? It's just in your head.

Yeah, it sure doesn't seem like it. It seems that the slings and arrows of life are all coming at us. It feels like we're a failure. But it's true. It's all in your mind.

How can I trivialize horrible things that happen to you like that? By making it seem like a simple mental problem? Because that's what it is, and once you realize that, you are liberated - you have the power to change your circumstances!

It's not an easy task, I'll give you that. It's incredibly, monumentally hard. Changing your mind and changing your life is a mental hurdle worthy of the titans.

But it can be done. All it takes is a few mental tricks, and a lot of energy and willingness to keep an open mind.

"Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow." - Swedish proverb

Let me give you an example: for the last couple years, I've struggled with exercise. I actually enjoy running and working out, but there are days when I don't feel like doing a thing, or when I feel under the weather, and those days can stretch out to a week and that week can stretch into a few weeks. And then I've fallen of the exercise wagon and it feels like I can't get back on.

But then I use the first couple of tricks below, and my mindset changes. I switch on the positive attitude, and realize that my failure to exercise is actually just a stepping stone to fitness success. And looking back, I've had 6-7 of these failures, or stepping stones, and they've all led me further down the path to fitness. Today, I exercise almost every day, and I'm loving it.

The same is true of every other success I've had. this blog, for example, is a success in my eyes, but I've had points where I was discouraged by negative comments or emails. I flipped that discouragement around, however, and used the comments to help myself improve.

I had many failures along the way to eliminating my debt, but I made it there in the end, by not quitting. I have faced many tests of my patience and character, and failed not a few of those too. But through practice, I've gotten better, and while I'm not perfect, I know that I'll only continue to improve if I keep the same mindset.

It's all in your mind. Here are 8 tricks I use to turn anything bad into something awesome.

1/ The power of positive thinking. I learned the power of positive thinking while I was quitting smoking, and I used the lessons of that challenge to help me with every other challenge I've face since. Quitting smoking, as most smokers (and ex-smokers) know, is supremely difficult. There are many times throughout each day, in the first few weeks especially, when you feel like giving up. When you want just one cigarette (which leads to two...). When you just don't see the point of all this suffering. And yet, if you realize that it's just negative thinking, you can squash that negative thought like a little bug. Then replace it with a with a positive thought ( I can do this!) and you're back on the road to success. Recognize negative thoughts, squash them, and find positive thoughts to replace them. Works every time.

2/ Failure is a stepping stone to success. This is what I tell myself every time I fall. I get up, dust myself off, and start again. Each failure shows you an obstacle you didn't anticipate, and you can plan to beat that obstacle next time. Each failure brings your that much closer to winning. And you know what? Every single time I've told myself that, so far, it's been true. I've succeeded. Getting back up is the main thing.

3/ Practice patience. This is what I tell myself when I get frustrated, when someone is difficult, when I begin to lose my patience. First, I vent somehow (talking to a friend or my wife is one of the best ways for me). Then, I tell myself that is a great way for me to practice my patience. Sometimes, I have to repeat this to myself like a mantra, but it works nonetheless.

4/ Learning experience. Similar to the "stepping stone to success" trick above, but it can be used for anything, not just failure. If I make a mistake, if I make the wrong choice, if I have a bad day ... I just see it as an opportunity to learn. Then I review it in my head, trying to figure out what went wrong, trying to learn from my mistakes. If you see learning as a wonderful thing, as I do, then you can see every mistake as a blessing.

5/ Makes you stronger. "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger," goes the famous saying. And while that's not always true (sometimes we can be left weakened and ruined), I've found it to be true in most cases. Something is difficult? I will be a stronger person for having endured it. This has been the case for me when I went through problems as a teenager (I ran away from home and slept in Golden Gate Park in S.F.), when I went through a divorce seven years ago, when I had stressful and trying times at various jobs. I became a better person because of it.

6/ Test of your character. I like tests and challenges. It motivates me to step up to another lever, to see if i can meet the challenge. This is the case with my first marathon, which was very difficult for me (for various reasons). It wasn't a particularly enjoyable experience for me, but I just saw it as a test. And when I passed that test, it was joyous thing for me. This is true any time you go through a trying time - see it as a challenge, and try to meet that challenge. And when you do, you'll feel great about yourself.

7/ Turn the other cheek. Jesus said that instead of taking an eye for an eye, if someone hits you, just turn the other cheek. I don't know many people who can meet this monumental challenge. I've tried it. It's not easy, and the desire to avenge any wrongs is hard to quash. However, I believe that even making an effort at this will make you a better person. It goes not just for physical wrongs to you, but anything that anyone does to you. They call you a name? Thank them. There will be some people who say that you have to meet force with force, or people will walk all over you. To this I say, "Where does it end?" And I also say, "You are merely stooping to their level." Rise above the pettiness of others, and become a better human being.

8/ Love your enemy. I wrote about this recently as one of life's greatest challenges, and it belongs on this list. When you have anger toward another human being, give this a try. If you succeed, to any degree whatsoever, you will rejoice in this success. It is a miraculous thing.

" A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Van Renovations have Started!

As a lot you have realized, I haven't been posting lately. Once again, I went back to work on the off-grid home, so I have been very busy. I got back about 10 days or so ago; so, I started renovating my van. My main goals are to insulate the van very efficiently, and to put in a well-designed bed platform. I tried to design in other aspects to the back area, but, there just isn't enough room.

The first thing I had to do was to remove all the inner linings and roof liner. Then, I could see what I had to deal with. My first goal is to create an insulated roof with around R10 insulation. This is key to my design. One of the greatest heat loss areas is your roof. While the roof liner was a foam structure around R2, and did help, I wanted much more insulation. Then there are your windows, and the rear and side doors and your driving compartment. They will be addressed later.

Left: van interior with liners removed

I wanted to minimize any loss of interior space and maximise insulation. So, I decided to use foam panels of high R-value in between the roof ribs you can see in the photo. I also used a insulation sandwich panel of reflectix facing up, a foam core of R5 and reflectix facing down. There are also trapped air space above and below the suspended insulation. That way, summer heat is reflected up, winter heat is reflected down, and I have a R10 insulated roof in approx. 2 1/4 inches thick area.

Left: Expanding foam injected into structural channels.

Next, I injected foam into the roof channels along the side and across the top. You got to be careful not to put too much in at a time. It won't cure properly if you do, and you could distort body metal. The idea is to not allow any cold areas within your structure, so I'm trying to create a continuous insulating barrier around the interior. Also, any channels which have wiring or working parts which may need to be serviced were not filled. Common sense.

Both above: Framing to accept insulation and mount paneling.

The pictures above show framing which was glued and screwed to the metal roof channel. You gotta be careful not to puncture the exterior metal skin of your van. The picture to the left shows a rear piece which displays the total depth of the insulating space, a little over 2 inches. The frame members mounted on the roof ribs are made up of 1/4 inch thick strips, so it would conform to the curved roof.

Left: Insulating panels glued into place in roof framing.

Next, I added the insulation. Like a fool, I didn't take a picture showing the overall insulating setup. It goes something like this from top to bottom - rooftop metal skin, airspace, reflectix layer, foam insulation panel, reflectix layer, airspace, wood ceiling panel. I wanted the reflectix on top under a airspace to reflect the summer sun's heat, and so far, it's been very effective. I would have used a double thick layer of foam core, but that would have made a much more lowered roof, so I utilized different materials for different types of heat loss/gain. I negated any foam squeaks by taping duct tape around the panels and gluing them into place with a high quality construction glue. On top and below the panel is reflectix, which doesn't squeak against the foam. It works great, no squeaks at all.

Left: Finished roof, paneled, primed and just needing top coat.

My design is to utilize the original side liners with beefed up insulation behind them, and for the insulated wood roof to fit in with them. So far, it is working out great. A few comments. This is taking a long time, much longer than I anticipated, so obviously I am not living in the van. Also, paints and glues off-gas a lot, so you need to do this when it is dry weather to maximize the setting process and minimize the time.

I lost about 1 1/4 inches in overall height in my back area, but I gained very effective insulation. The effect for the summer is immediately noticeable. My van doesn't heat up nearly as much as before. If I have any circulating air, it's like beautiful cool shade in the back. I know it will be effective in winter.

I once insulated a cabin in the mountains. First, I insulated the floor. It made a little difference. Then, I insulated the windows by storm covers and heavy curtains; the walls were fine. That made a noticeable difference, but not a lot. Finally, I insulated the ceiling. I used a thick insulating layer, as per construction methods. This last step made a huge difference, more than all the rest combined. Also, I stopped air leaks around doors, etc.

I applying the same principals to my van. Laren Corie, a fellow vandweller and knowledgeable person, says that insulation is most important for your windows and the roof, in other words the areas of greatest heat loss/gain. I agree. And that is what I'm doing to my van. The next installment will address the windows and sides of the back of my van, my sleeping/storage quarters.