Savor the Cereal

essay self-improvement

When I was younger, I wasn’t an awesome human being. I didn’t try very hard in any of my classes, I played too many video games, I didn’t read enough, I ate like shit, and I exercised only when I felt so disgusted with myself that it felt like a fucking moral imperative.

I wanted to unearth my true potential, but I also knew that there wasn’t an ice cube’s chance in hell of that potential being actualized unless I changed my life in a really fundamental way.

That way came through reading. I forced myself to read 14 books in 2 weeks while working full-time at Amazon, and I learned some cool shit from some great writers like Atul Gawande, Nick Bostrom, and Ray Dalio. The books I read collectively sparked in me a deep-seated desire to re-evaluate my life and create a framework for self improvement.

That framework manifested itself in an increased drive to do certain thing and undergo periods of harsh self-reflection that then informed plans to create a rigorous routine of hard work and discipline. It also manifested itself in an increased need to consume ideas and thoughts in the form of reading books, Medium articles, blog posts, and Quora answers, watching terrific thought-pieces on YouTube, great documentaries on Netflix, and awesome short-films on Vimeo, and listening to podcasts from some of the great thinkers of our time.

It. Was. Fucking. Incessant. I spent damn near every waking minute consuming thoughts and ideas. Podcasts for breakfast, Podcasts while I was driving (one earbud out for safety!), YouTube videos during my lunch break, Medium articles as a mental break from coding, and documentaries late at night when I couldn’t focus anymore. I devoured media voraciously. And this was the “good” media, too. The kind that everyone and their mother tells you to consume instead of the shitty news updates you see on Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I used said apps for a combined 10 minutes a day, just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on the US being bombed or some similarly important, historic event.

I thought I was doing great — being aware and motivated towards self improvement wasn’t the norm for people my age. I felt like I was succeeding in a culture where it was all too common to spend day after day drinking from the endless dopamine-fountain that is social media. But for some reason, at the end of every day, I felt just as empty as when I woke up.

This went on for some time, before I finally realized that I wasn’t being. I was constantly in the on position — thinking, reading, wondering, journaling, making note of the things that I was learning, engaging with people, etc…

Not once did I stop. Not once did I smell the goddamn roses.

So the next day, instead of listening to the new Sam Harris podcast while I scarfed down some cereal in an effort to get to the gym on schedule for my daily routine, I put my phone away and just ate the fucking cereal.

Instead of pondering the ethics of honor culture while listening to the eloquent neuroscience PhD talk on 1.5x speed, I slowed down and tasted every single bite of that bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats that went into my mouth. Every delectable calorie that lay in the bowl below me was appreciated as it crossed my palate and subsequently slid down my gullet.

Have you ever realized that Honey Bunches of Oats is mostly just Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes mixed together in an orgy of carbs? I sure as shit know that I hadn’t prior to that fateful morning.

It was magical to slow down, be present in the moment, and be aware of how amazing the most mundane stuff in our lives is. I mean, it was cereal for chrissakes.

Ever since then, I’ve made sure that I take the time every day to stop being so constantly on and slow down to realize the wonderment that can be seen in every nook and cranny of ordinary being. That is what has made me a better person and realize my potential in a fuller manner. No amount of podcasts, books, or thought-pieces can help you see the miraculous nature of everything we do.

Consuming is not being.

Savor the cereal.