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Michael Defern Posts

What You’re Looking for Is Not Out There

I was always working for something.

As a kid I worked to get an allowance, so I can buy something I wanted. Then I got a job so I could get a car. Then a better job so I could get a better car. I took guitar lessons because I wanted to be like Eric Clapton. I took piano lessons so I could be like Billy Joel. I went to the gym so I could look better, to get a better girlfriend.

Everything was a means to an end.

Happiness was always “out there” on the other side of the rainbow, and I thought all I had to do to get there was to work hard.

“Do these things”, then I get what I want. I assumed it was only a matter of working harder or finding the right strategy / secret.

For years, I never considered that there might be a flaw in my way of thinking. Until I got old enough and had sufficiently failed myself, that I stepped back and asked, “maybe I’m the problem?”

Instead of working to get something in the future, what if I put some of that energy into working on right now?

Is it possible to enjoy the moment I’m in, accepting things the way they are, and just stand there and smile? Can I find gratitude in the things I have instead of only focusing on what I don’t have?

It’s possible, but it takes work.

But I know how to work! I’ve worked hard at things all my life, so why not put some of that effort into being present? Practice keeping focus on whatever is right in front of you, being where your feet are, embracing whatever you’re feeling and not following the thoughts as they try to lead you somewhere else. Stay here for a while.

If you can make this shift, and adjust the way you operate – instead of looking for answers out there and in the future, look inside and in the now – it’s actually an easier, more enjoyable life.

Because the truth is, experience tells you that no matter how much you achieve, how much money you get, how good your body looks, as long as you’re looking for outside things to make you whole, you’ll never be happy. You might be for a while but it doesn’t last. Like a drug addict, you always need more.

Yet, ironically, if you focus on the inside first, not only do we experience true peace, joy and freedom, but we can still achieve outside success – because we want to, not because we have to.


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A Clean House Won’t Get You Into Heaven

I’ve tried many times to turn this line into a song, so far without luck. So now it’s a blog post.

I grew up living in some very clean houses. First there was my grandmother’s house – Nini. Then my mom’s. Everything was always perfectly neat and organized, and if you threw garbage in the bathroom pail, 5 minutes later it would mysteriously be empty.

I guess it was no accident that my first job was a dishwasher at a catering hall, where I not only cleaned dishes, but the entire facility. Constantly.

As I grew up and starting living on my own, I stayed fairly domestic, but I did rebel just a little. I actually refuse to take my shoes off when I come in the house sometimes!

I’ve learned to let some of my formal cleaning training go, but there’s still seems to be a nagging feeling that tells me there’s something wrong if the house isn’t always perfectly clean.

Not just that something is wrong. That I AM wrong.

But I’m tired of being valued for whether or not the house is clean, or if I have personally busted my ass to clean it.

It’s like my mind is telling me that it’s not enough for me to spend hours doing the thing that I get paid for, or working on a project that might make a difference in the grander scheme of things, beyond just impacting my own selfish needs. My mind is still saying, “but Mike, you didn’t clean today. you’re not done …” Even when I make a decision to let it go, to ignore the mess, that voice is still talking to me. “Mike, you know there are still dishes in the sink, don’t you?”


I don’t think the point of life is to check off all the boxes, and make everything nice and clean, so I can then get my reward. But that is exactly the message that was programmed into my head as a kid, at least subconsciously.

But I don’t want to be valued for my cleaning abilities anymore.

I am valuable because of how I think, what I say, and what I believe – but most importantly, because of who I AM – not what I clean.

I can just stand here and do nothing and still feel valuable. I don’t need to clean the house first. So, I’m calling bullshit on that little voice in my head, and I’m changing the story

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