What’s the algorithm of an amazing life? +<3 ... On September 1, 2011 I spoke at Ignite Boulder on “Plus Less Than Three: The Algorithm of an Amazing Life.” It was inspired by a late June conversation under a tree in a thunderstorm with my friend Lark. This was my second Ignite talk, and I was excited to take the stage. Video and script below for posterity. – xo ali
+ < 3
An algorithm is a set of rules used to solve a problem in a finite number of steps. It’s like a recipe. Input amazing ingredients and get amazing cookies. But this talk isn’t about cookies, code or calculus.
It’s about the qualitative input needed to manifest outcomes to life’s big questions. Technically, this calls for the syntax of your heart: your own internal integration system that connects you to the world and doesn’t require an API.
Uncertainty is life’s big variable. You can’t plan for it, If-Statements can’t contain it, and it will break a system that can’t handle it. But the heart can handle the unknowns.
Let’s apply this to real life. I’ve had to make some big decisions (well, they felt big at the time). Being the rational Virgo that I am, I thought I could think my way out of anything by doing what was right, seeking the advice of others and applying what I had learned.
But something still didn’t feel right. And what felt right didn’t make logical sense. Thinking left me mind-bottled. I had reached the edge of my default programming. I wanted a map. A manual. A pirate.
I wanted a magic compass to direct me through this uncharted territory. Then one day in yoga class, the instructor said: “Crawl into your heart space, dust it off – and download from the big self.”
So I did. And having a Masters degree in Religious Studies I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that sooner. After all, the Map is Not the Territory. And there, with each breath, I got cozy with the contours of my heart.
I asked it questions and I felt… stirrings. Something was alive in there and it was trying to tell me something. And there at the end of the world as I thought I knew it, I felt fine.
And I began to realize what e.e. cummings had said when he wrote: since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you;
Feeling (not thinking) is the key to navigating an infinite universe in which all limits are arbitrary and the possibilities are endless. You can apply an algorithm at any moment when this all feels overwhelming.
Plus less than 3 – or Plus Heart – results in spontaneous and true outcomes that align you with what you really want. Feel your questions and get answers, anywhere, anytime. Once you feel it, you’ll know.
Try is: Ask your heart a question. If your body contracts – or closes down around your heart – that’s a clear message of what not to do. The answer with heart expands your chest, feels warm-and-fuzzy and makes you feel more alive than ever before.
Like Rumi said: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. When your actions come from another place, that feeling disappears.”
Every moment is a choice to feel that joy. Consistently choosing joy can lead to heightened levels of Awesome. Because feeling that good releases oxytocin in the brain which acts like a magic virus attacking mental tension and relaxing it completely.
Oxytocin is the neurotransmitter of bonding, calm and connection. In this state, we can access our creative resources and solve problems better.
In fact, even the brain is wired to handle change to its default programming as we move through life. Neuroplasticity accounts for changes to our neural pathways, thus increasing our capacity for sustained feelings of happiness.
Nothing in the universe is fixed, including your potential to experience amazingness. We’ll always find new edges. And while we’ll never get to the horizon line, we must want it more than we fear it – or we’ll settle into a life of ‘meh.’
The edge is where the excitement is – the wonder, the awe – and where we become radically alive.
Life is an adventure you are creating every moment. The greatest explorers had no maps, and neither do we. Your heart knows. Follow that rhythm. That’s the beauty of creating something.
So, tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?