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What's a Big Day?

To knock off anything ambitious you generally need two things: unbroken time and sustained focus. But nobody has the first, and we’ve lost the muscle for the second. The solution – one solution, my solution – is Big Days. I’m suggesting you carve out one 24-hour block of time per month and devote it to a single task. When you clock back into your life the next day you’ll have put something significant in the books – be it soul work or work work. And no one will even know you’ve been gone.

One Big Days

Big Eclipse Day

The first wish-list I ever made for OBD, ten years ago, included this candidate item: “chase a solar eclipse.” I even wrote the date in the calendar: April 8, 2024. That’s today. Alas, two factors have conspired to dilute the dream. One, I’m in Vancouver, which is not in the so-called “path of totality.” And…

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Anti-Big Day: Do Nothing At All

“The circle of an empty day is brutal and at night it tightens around your neck like a noose.” — Elena Ferrante * This morning, in a fit of spontaneity, the girls bugged out for a 24-hour getaway to Vancouver Island. Leaving me at home with all the ingredients for a Big Day of my…

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Big Trig Day

Sometimes it hits me: I’m kind of a bad parent. Not whipped-them-all-soundly-and-sent-them-to-bed bad, just … a bit lazy. Neglectful. Inattentive to the shifting emotional barometric pressure of youth. When the girls are quietly dealing with some issue, it’s almost always their mom who picks up on it and helps them past that pinch point, while…

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Big Apollonian Day

The two sons of Zeus couldn’t have been more different. Apollo, god of the sun (not to mention music, poetry, plague and disease) was a logic freak. He prided himself on his rational thinking and sound reasoning. He was forever telling younger brother Dionysus not to touch his carefully ordered record collection — because the…

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Big Dionysian Day

Big Apollonian Day This is the second of a two-part post. The setup is explained in part one, Big Apollonian Day. * Sunday, May 14, 2023, 8am: Naxos, Greece As church bells gong, and waiters set up breakfast tables on patios on the beach, Mad and I jog through the narrow streets of the Chora,…

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A Horrible, Hideous No Good Very Bad Day

From time to time my congenital optimism — the emotion that underpins this whole project — gets pierced by sadness. Awful things happen. When the awfulness unfolds on a single day, you could call it a Big Day. Even though only thing “big” about it is the hole it leaves in your life. ** On…

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Start Me Up:  How winning a hackathon changed Max Macaro’s life

The low points in our lives can break us. Or make us. In the fall of 2014, Max Macaro, a student from small town in Siberia, was right up against it. From a young age he’d had big tech dreams. He’d learned English through a mail-order program, taught himself coding, been accepted into an accelerator…

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Big No-Sugar Day

Recently, my friend Debra Jang, who’s a certified health and life coach, launched the Five-Day No-Sugar Challenge for her clients and any interested guests. It seemed a worthy project: the addiction to refined sugar is a scourge of contemporary Western life. This stuff, at scale, is making us fat and clouding our brains and killing…

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College Scouting Trip

The life of every parent is shot through with an awareness that the kids will one day fly the coop. And you’ll be left rattling around in an empty nest held together with pride, melancholy and regret about how you bungled the little stuff. (All those “petty treasons we commit against the ones we love,”…

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E-BUG for a Day

Most days pass so unremarkably that one blends into the next in the compost of memory until they’re just gone. But very occasionally comes a day you never forget. Because it’s a day you’ve been dreaming of since you were a little kid. Around 6pm on October 15, Alex Bishop — a 24-year-old U of…

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Emily Carr Pilgrimage

Deep bow to the artists who were ahead of their time, whose talents were overlooked in their day but whom the zeitgeist is now rounding up. Like: come back, right now. We need you. Emily Carr is so overdue for a second run. I’ve come to think of her as the first real Canadian whose…

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Brian Doyle Day

Since we last spoke, I’ve tried angel dust. Or whatever it is that Brian Doyle sprinkled into his short essays about the natural world. I’m late to the party on this writer, who died of brain cancer in 2017 at age 60. My initiation came this past weekend. I’d stumbled on his hummingbird story while,…

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Sight Singing for Dummies

The best answer I’ve heard to the question “What is one skill we should all learn in quarantine?” was this from the writer Jia Tolentino: How to make someone feel loved from a distance. But here’s a pretty close second: singing. Yes! Who wasn’t inspired by all the Italians belting it out from their apartment…

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Back-Pocket Day

“I thought I was a hoarder. Turns out I’m a prepper.” That New Yorker cartoon captures the spirit of the last three months. Everybody holed up, thinking long thoughts, mentally bracing for what might be coming — while at the same time rueing that we didn’t snap into prep mode sooner. (It’s not like we…

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Stuck in the Airport

Edited Jan 14, 2020 On August 28, 1998, Merhan Nasseri’s plane touched down at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and the Iranian refugee strode into Terminal One. In the departure lounge he found a seat. And there he remained until July of 2006, when he took ill and had to be hospitalized. For 18 years,…

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Make a Killer Halloween Costume

Halloween is like Ocean’s 11: You’re in you’re out, right now. “Half-in” doesn’t really fly. Like wearing sweatpants in public, making a lame last-minute costume broadcasts a depressing lack of both imagination and initiative. Why bother? On the other hand, we’ve all had the experience of going all-in on a great costume that ended up…

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The 10,000 Steps of Leopold Bloom

Lisa Simpson: “Oh, it must be Bloomsday. Every June 16, lovers of James Joyce follow the route traveled by Leopold Bloom in the novel Ulysses.” Bart Simpson: “What you’re saying is, we’ve run out of fun things to do.” … Even if the Irish family vacation planned by that other Homer, the dim one, failed…

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In ‘N Out Surgery

“Count backwards from ten…” The Uber driver rolled to a stop at the co-ordinates he’d been given. It was a strip mall in the Maples district, a subdivision in the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A realtor might charitably describe the neighbourhood as “emerging.” Wait, thought Ron Robinson. Can this be right? He and his…

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Construct a Perfect Day

Is such a thing even possible? Lou Reed thought so, though sinking into a heroin fog probably isn’t the soundest strategy for long-term fulfillment – or even short-term happiness, if remembering what you were happy about is part of the deal. Not long ago, Melbourne-based writer Madeleine Dore wondered if you could construct a Perfect Day by…

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Raise a Ruckus

Certain unwritten rules have governed the Internet. One of them — which the Obama administration actually made a written rule – is Net Neutrality. It means that the Internet should be free. Everyone should have equal access. Think of the Internet as a public good, like clean water. The faucet is your web browser. What…

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One Big Day Journal

The all-nighter that changed global geopolitics

It’s an exaggeration to say Jeffrey Sachs sparked the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, ushering in the end of the Cold War, in a single day. But maybe not as much as you’d think. Sachs, a developmental economist, was reminiscing recently with an interviewer about how it all went down in summer of 1989.…

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Batkid lives on

(photo: Jeff Chiu, AP) The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a delivery system of epic Big Days to seriously ill kids. One day to live your dream: it’s a bittersweet gift, in the circumstances. But some recipients defy the odds, and live to savour the memory of a great adventure. That’s the case with Miles Scott, from…

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Weirdo for a Day: adventures in non-conformity

(photo: vecteezy) After the scale of the Nazi atrocities of World War II became known, a keen focus of experimental psychology in the West was this question: Are we all just sheep? How could so many people blindly follow orders, when their very souls must have been screaming objections? The psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who would…

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Doing one thing over and over

In their quest for perfection, some film directors put their actors through a cosmic test of patience. David Fincher, best known for his Oscar-winning The Social Network, shot the opening scene of that picture 99 times. It’s not a record — that honour goes to Stanley Kubrick, who logged 148 takes of a scene from…

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A Day in the Wayback Machine

Boop! The email that appears in your in-box activates brain synapses you thought had rusted shut. It’s from an old university friend you haven’t seen in decades. She found you online and, on an impulse, reached out. Turns out she’s coming through your town next month and wondering if you’re free to meet. Are you?…

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