Last weekend I pulled a true YOLO maneuver.
After my alma mater and childhood college basketball teams (Wisconsin and UCONN) each made the Final Four, I pulled the trigger on flights to Dallas, and quickly bought tickets to both the semifinal and championship games. Being a big sports fan, I realized how rare it was for two teams I root for make it to the semifinals with the possibility of matching up for a championship. I decided I had to be there.
And I was stoked. But there were plenty of reasons I should not have gone. The trip was totally last minute. It wasn’t cheap. And I’d have to take an unplanned vacation day, find a place to stay, and figure out transportation to and from the games. Oh yeah, and there was always the chance both my teams could lose in the semifinals.
Definition of first world problems, I know.
But whatever, I decided to go for it. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, right?
Hold up, did you just go all Drake circa 2012 on us?
Isn’t that what frat guys yell before ripping shots on a Friday (or Tuesday) night? Don’t millennials from Amsterdam to Burning Man use this phrase when rationalizing questionable decisions, or to justify whatever their idiot peer group is doing?
But if there were ever a trip that represented my version of the right way to YOLO, it was this one.
So, excuse me while I jump up onto my soapbox.
For one thing, I realized the value of the trip would last beyond any immediately tangible outcome. Yes, it was possible my teams could win. But I also saw potential for long-lasting value from the memories I would create.
And those memories would come from the experience itself. Studies have shown that spending money on positive life experiences leads to greater long-term happiness than simply satisfying lower-level psychological needs. While pleasing immediate desires like hunger or relieving social anxiety might feel good in the moment, fond memories can create happiness in perpetuity as you continually reminisce about the experience later.
And I was confident this trip would be an investment in creating long-lasting positive experiences.
How did I know?
The circumstances aligned with things I value. For one, I enjoy watching sports played at a high level in person. These games would definitely provide that. Even better, a friend from college offered to host me for the weekend, and tag along for the games. So I’d be able to experience something new and exciting, while also strengthening an important friendship. Those sound like higher-level needs to me.
As it turns out, UCONN ended up taking the whole thing. While they didn’t need the W to justify my trip, seeing one of my teams win in person sure helped!
Live In The Moment
Normally I like planning trips so I know exactly what I’m going to be doing once I arrive. But since this was a spur of the moment thing, I didn’t have the time or willingness to plan ahead.
Which turned out great, since it forced me to practice living in the moment. The lack of an itinerary meant I had to go with the flow of where the weekend took us. We grubbed, played some (bad) golf, and saw a free concert, all without a plan.
While we did go to bars after Saturday night’s games, we didn’t get completely obliterated. We had a few drinks, enjoyed the night out, and had some late-night tacos. Nothing ridiculous or over-the-top. And nothing I didn’t consciously choose to do.
At the end of the weekend, my friend and brother (who also made the trip from Cali) all agreed – every experience was more enjoyable because we could actually remember it!
While drinking can be fun and has it’s place, you don’t have to be a slave to it. We were able to enjoy ourselves more because we could actually focus on where we were and what we were doing, rather than a pounding headache, or seeking out the next day-drinking spot.
Consciously Decide To Chill Out
If being mindful made the trip more memorable, choosing to relax made things more fun. We didn’t stress about our plans, and changed things up last minute on several occasions.
One example of this was the concert I mentioned earlier. We knew the band FUN. was playing for free in the afternoon, followed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The weather was kind of crappy, so we initially didn’t plan to go. But without much else going on, we decided to check it out and see how we felt.
What a great freakin’ decision!
We ended up staying the whole time, all the way through the end of Springsteen’s session. I’ve never been a huge fan of his music, but now I understand why he has a cult following. His live show was AMAZING. The decision to relax and go with the flow ended up creating an unexpected positive experience that would create happiness for awhile (apparently surprise enhances memories too).
Down With Selfies!
Springsteen played for 3 straight hours without a break. No joke! But one of the best parts of his performance was how he would bring fans on stage to sing and dance with the band. This led to a pretty hilarious moment when he brought 15 or so teenage girls up during one particular song.
But rather than singing, dancing, and enjoying the moment, each one of them pulled out their cell phones and started taking selfies with Bruce!
You could tell he was getting annoyed when it was time for them to leave the stage and they all stopped to pose for pictures, puckered lips and all. Once the song was over he began smacking his palm against his forehead as he mumbled, “Selfies…selfies…selfies…”
How crazy are we that we can’t just enjoy once-in-a-lifetime moments anymore? This was a pretty clear reminder to stay grounded and present, especially during memorable experiences.
You could feel Bruce’s frustration. We were almost embarrassed for those girls. It’s similar to how I feel when someone uses YOLO to justify stupid behavior.
The next time I hear someone quote Drake to right before some act of unconscious living, I’ll just imagine Bruce smacking his head while muttering, “YOLO…YOLO…YOLO…”
Bringing It All Together
So to wrap it up, YOLO for me looks like this:
- Cultivate positive experiences
- Be present in the moment
- Choose to relax and chill out
- No stupid selfies when a rock and roll legend is dancing and singing right next to you
Whew, glad I got that all out.
I’ll get down off my soapbox now, but please do me a favor: When you remind yourself you only live once, remember to actually go out and live.