The author poses with Miss USA 2011, Alyssa Campenella. This photo hangs on the wall at Mullberry Street Pizza in Sherman Oaks, CA. It's captioned "Thanks for the great pizza. Sorry I ruined the photo."
Below, a list of seven simple things I have worked regularly into my life that have made my life better. And not just better. A lot better.
1. TAKE A NAP.
Taking a nap is a lot like having sex with one of the Kardashian girls. Yes, it feels great for 30 minutes while you're doing it, however, it can also lead to or be masking any number of diseases, according to historical medical literature that reads more like a Mormon pamphlet on pre-marital sex: hundreds of "cons" and no "pros." For years, doctors and scientists have said that the need for an afternoon nap can be a sign of: sleep apnea, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, Parkinson's disease and perhaps something even worse than all the previous, which doctors call quote "being fucking tired." Not only that, napping can result in what's called "sleep inertia." That's the very groggy feeling you get after a "long" nap -- usually one of more than 60 minutes. And, afternoon napping can also lead to poor sleep during the night. HOWEVER -- more recent research from the Harvard Medical School, among others, indicates that a short nap -- 30 to 40 minutes -- can have multiple benefits, including: reducing fatigue, be relaxing, reducing anxiety, improve mood, alertness and focus, improve performance and can actually improve your evening sleep cycle.
Personally, I've been taking a 30 to 40 minute nap nearly every week day for the last three months. It's been my experience that I am able to work longer with a clearer head and more focus. I also feel better overall. And, I have cut by 50 percent the amount of Coca-Cola I drink -- the caffeine, I presume, gave me a jolt. On a related note, I also notice I sleep less during the night. I go to bed about 12:30 and rise at 6:30 in order to get my kids off to school.
2. STREET WALKING ISN'T JUST FOR PROSTITUTES ANYMORE.
In addition to the 30 minute or so nap I regularly take, I also walk approximately 3 miles or so every morning. I'm lucky in that I live down the block from the school where one of my daughter's is in 3rd grade. Every morning, we walk to her school... and then I continue on my way. I make the 3-mile walk more interesting by listening to any one of a number of podcasts I subscribe to. One thing I don't do is try and convince myself I'm exercising. Like many people, I have an aversion to exercise for exercise's sake. I used to tell people that when I feel like exercising, I sit down and wait for the feeling to pass. So rather than calling my walk "exercise," I think of it as just some quite time I get to enjoy -- outdoors -- alone with my thoughts, listening to my friend's Adam Carolla, Marc Maron, Ira Glass, and Norm McDonald. I concede that my daily long walks likely have some health benefits... which is good. But by not obsessing over the need to "do something healthy," I think I've ingrained in myself a new habit that will be hard to break.
3. BE THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR OWN LOVE BOAT.
I have often said that I know a little bit about a lot of things. And while my knowledge base is a good party trick... that's really all it's good for. That being said, I do know quite a bit about one or two things. The first is pizza. But, that's a matter for another time. The other thing I know a lot about is what makes people happy. Well, not ALL people. Rather, I should say I know a lot about what makes adult men... and perhaps adult women happy. Here it is. So, pay attention. The key to adult happiness is... to be your own boss and to work with people whose company you enjoy. That's it. The key to adult happiness is to be the captain of your own ship, to be in charge of your own destiny... rather than to be at the whim of some employer. If you work for someone, you can be fired for a gazillion reasons, none of which are of your own doing. The result of which will be less or no more money to feed your family, etc. Being an employee is like having a sword of Damacles dangling perpetually over your head.
Personally, I have created for myself a life where I determine what kind of TV shows I want to make... and then I hire the people I'd like to spend my day hanging out and working with. Being the captain of my own ship... and laughing all day with friends is what adults should strive for.
4. GLUTEN FREE BANANA NUT SCONES SUCK! ASK ANYONE.
I work in show business. A business notorious for awarding success based on factors that have nothing to do with either the quality of your work or the content of your character. Show business success is often based on the whims of people . So, as a coping mechanism for a system of rewards based often on whims, I resolved that I would never let someone else's opinion of my work determine how I personally felt about it. Because, after all, what we as writers and performers do, is not science. What you find funny, I might not. And what I find compelling storytelling, you may not.
Personally: I think of myself as a baker. I make delicious cake. Unfortunately, most days the people with money are buying god-damned gluten free banana walnut scones. And there's nothing I can do about it. Their affection for gluten free scones does not mean that cake is bad. It just a reflection on their terrible judgement. And character.
5. DON'T JUST BE ANNOYED WITH YOUR KIDS. READ TO THEM, TOO.
MTE0412Every night before bed, I read something from the New York Times' Science Section or from Scientific American to my 9 year old daughter. In the three months since this began, we have learned about the dramatic reduction in monarch butterflies and their 3000 mile migration from Southern Canada to Central Mexico, about how scientists have demonstrated that chimps will cooperate with one another in order to get food, about a flying snake that achieves its aerodynamics by curling itself into an "S," about the Blue Footed Boobies of the Gallapagos, about an African spider that can tumble like a gymnast across the desert floor at incredible speed in order to evade a predator among others. My favorite of all this actually happens the following morning on the walk to school, when I ask her about what we read the night before and she instantly recalls the name of the town in Central Mexico where the Monarch migrates to, or that the Blue Footed booby is dying out because of dramatic reduction in herring, it's main food source.
During the 1960s, it was the Black Power movement which popularized the slogan: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." If those activists knew what we know now, they'd know that the reason the revolution won't be televised, is because it will be texted. I hate texting. I hate it for its ubiquity. I hate it because it makes me reachable 24 hours a day. I hate it because it has thrown a dinosaur sized monkey wrench into thousands of years of human interaction. Let me give you an example... from Caveman days. After a caveman showered and shaved in the morning, he would club his wife over the head - the primitive demonstration of affection prior to kissing -- and set out to find some meat. He would be gone for hours and likely days. Time during which he would have no contact with his wife. Then, he would return... wearing a bison skin as a hoodie, carrying enough meat to feed his family for days and weeks. As the family ate, the caveman would regale his family with stories from the hunt. If he was a good story teller, his stories could last hours, with the family hanging on his every word. Now, imagine the same story only this time, when the Caveman leaves, he takes his texting device. After a few minutes of being gone, his wife would text: "It's cold. Did you bring a sweater?" A few minutes later, she wants to know if he got the first text. Later, Neanderthal-001she texts: "How's your day?" Followed by more texts: "Have you seen any bison?" "R U finding us food?" "You put the poison on the sharp end of the spear, right? LOL" "Will you be home for dinner?" The caveman, of course, has to stop what he's doing and answer all these questions. Then, when he finally arrives home with the bison skin on as a hoodie, and carrying the meat, they sit down around the fire to feast on what he's brought home. Only instead of regaling them with stories of his hunt, they family sits in silence because thanks to the texts, they already know what happened.
Personally, I have improved my life by telling my wife not to text me details of her day, or send me photos... nor should she inquire about my day or my adventures. That way, when we get together and are sitting face to face, we can do what billions of married couples have done before us, for millions of years: sit across from one another and passive aggressively say things like "Fine." When asked "How was your day?" I'm kidding.
7. EAT PIZZA. A LOT.
For nearly 3 years, I have had lunch every weekday at the same pizzeria in Sherman Oaks, California -- Mullberry Street. I get the same thing. Two slices of cheese and a Mexican Coke. Mexican Coke is Coke bottled in Mexico and made with real sugar... as opposed to Coke made in the US with high-fructose corn syrup. So, why the same thing every day? A few reasons: 1. I love pizza. 2. By having this decision already made, it was one less decision I had to make during the day... thus, allowing me to spend more time focusing on my work. And 3. I like the people that work at Mullberry Street pizza, including Richie (the owner), Jose, Juan and Martin. They are nice people who over time, became my friends. Then, one day, Richie said he wanted to thank me for my loyal patronage and just like that, one of my life long dreams came true. You see, the walls at Mullberry Street Pizza are filled with photos of famous actors and actresses who've eaten there, including Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and dozens upon dozens more showbiz luminaries. One photo, however, stands out from all the rest... because it's of a guy who lives around the corner, sits at the counter every day and orders two slices and a Mexican Coke.
Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of the new science series, This vs That, which has been hailed as "revolutionary" and "hilarious." See the series premiere FREE, by clicking HERE.