well-being

Walking Through an Explosion: An Ode to Wandering

Sometimes life tosses you a hand-grenade and, if you’re lucky, it fragments and shreds all of the paper mâché you’ve propped up as walls.

I take a long walk every day (it’s one of the newest pleasures I’ve discovered about being self-employed.) I walk without headphones — just me, the dog, and the world around me. And I carry a small notebook in my pocket for all the little things that might swirl around in my head while I meander through suburban neighborhoods. It’s great idea generator. Mostly though, I walk to let my mind drift. I walk to find space. It’s become the most important part of my day, to wander and then to come back home feeling refreshed and somehow cleansed. Sure, some of it is the endorphins from 1–2 hours of continuous movement, but as a result of this behavior there’s also something fundamental happening in the way that I think and react. As I explained recently to a friend, “Walking stabilizes you. You’re less jumpy. You’re able to take things in before leaping, claws out, ready to attack everything that moves. You don’t move slower, you just react more effectively.” Little did I know that just days later, those words would be put to the test.

It was nearing 3pm when I ambled in the door, head full of tree-canopied lanes and houses with curled roofs (architecture is a new love as well.) I took the harness off of the dog and he ran off to his water bowl. I took off my shoes, sat in my chair, and opened the email app on my iPad. And there it was, news that the Chinese tariffs had hid me. One of my clients was being forced to “baton-down the hatches and prepare for the the storm ahead.” Part of his financial prepping would mean that he’d need to reduce our business together by 50%. In one short email, my monthly income had just plummeted 40%. Hand-grenade.

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I’m not sure how I ended up in the website and marketing business. Obviously, I know the step-by-step story of how it happened, but I’m just not sure how it continued to happen. I don’t remember choosing it. It’s not a field that I enjoy, or have passion for. Some might argue that it’s not even one I have any remarkable skills for. I can do a job. I can follow through. I might even have a few decent ideas, but I’m not going to blow anyone’s socks off. It’s simply a base-level skill that I have, which I’ve been able to leverage into a decent business. Not everybody out there is looking to have their socks blown off. Some people just need a few simple things done. Meat and potatoes. I’m the meat and potatoes. Isn’t that inspiring?

My true passion is the written word. It’s where my actual skills lie. But it isn’t really something that I’ve leveraged much professionally, and because of that I don’t have much of a resume to prove my actual skill. I’ve written pieces for companies like Todoist. They did really well (one being covered by LifeHacker and another republished by The Observer.) But that’s about the extent of it. And to be honest, even that writing isn’t my best. My best is fiction. And the best of the best is my dialogue. I can write stellar conversations. (Someone should honestly pay me to fix TV scripts.)

So, what is Mr. Meat and Potatoes to do when faced with this kind of email? Jump into a bush, sit and quiver, lick my wounds, whine, and then begrudgingly find more clients in the field that I fell into. But, that’s not what I did. In fact, within ten minutes I’d messaged six people for writing work. Just like that. Asking for writing work.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the significance of those actions. I mean, it wasn’t a struggling process. I didn’t contemplate what to do. I didn’t debate between the safe work that I didn’t want and the elusive work that I love. I didn’t even complain. Or rage. Or fear. Or wonder what I was going to do. I just acted, decisively. I reached for what I wanted reflexively. Like it was instinct. I don’t even know that I deserve any credit for it. I’ve never done that before. In fact, in the last decade or so, without noticing, I’ve let all of these weak walls of excuses build up around me. “I don’t have the resume.” “I’m not good enough at that kind of writing.” “I can’t deal with deadlines.” “I’ll never make enough money.” “There isn’t enough consistency.” My life had somehow been contained by a toilet paper fort, and then here comes this grenade that spits holes through the white walls and makes them whistle when I breath. I couldn’t help but see them, flimsy flaps huddled around me. I punched my fist forward and tore though them. I didn’t even know what I’d done until an entire day later. A flash and then the sound of the explosion.

When I started, I thought this was short piece about the benefits of small catastrophes; about how we need to be shaken up every so often. But as I move through it, I realize that this is an ode to wandering; praise for perambulation (I just really wanted to use that word;) it’s a thank you note for one hour a walking every day. Without the space that walking created, who knows how long I would have continued crouching in that paper box. Who knows how long I would have continued doing what I’d already done, over and over again. But here I am — broken out, standing in the sun, sweating slightly in the breeze. No more wetting newspaper strips to repair the holes. No more safe and boring. It’s time to stretch. It’s time to challenge myself. It’s time to push another block because I want to what the houses look like on that side of the street. I want my feet to hurt a little bit every night.

Now, I didn’t land a bunch of writing work. The gods didn’t hand down a storybook ending. I snagged a few gigs with okay pay. They aren’t dialogue work…or even fiction. But, all said and done, if they stay consistent, and I continually push myself out of my comfort zone, I’ll be able to make up for about 60% of the lost income. I’m okay with that. I’m not thrilled, but I’m okay with it. Maybe I have to suffer a little for hiding away for so long. Maybe it’s time to learn new skills at writing in different styles. Maybe I’ll be happier as a struggling writer ever so slowly getting better than I ever was at meat and potatoes, emails and websites, paper mâché and unfinished drafts. And maybe it’s better to be underpaid for who you are, then it is to be paid well for cowardice. I guess I’ll find out regardless.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me and the dog to go for a long, long walk.

Broken Movies

I’ve spent the last week watching mostly 80’s films, Christmas films and general kids level fluff. And I’ve enjoyed the shit out of it. I think I’ve finally found a way to mute the creator mind and just watch something passively.

I like that these films are what they are. They have low goals, and I can give the inner critic the night off. It’s too easy to look for flaws in good films or films that should be good, but a movie like Fletch is somehow free from that. It’s just Chevy Chase waking the line between charming and goofy. The movie just creates occasions for that. Home Alone, is just Dennis the Menace mixed with Wiley E. Coyote, and that’s all it wants.

Maybe these movies are comforting for me because this it what most movies were like for most of my life. For every Taxi Driver, there were two Teen Wolfs, two Ghostbusters, and one Weird Science. I grew up with a short stack of VHS tapes like these.

Good wasn’t a measure of depth or execution, good was how far did something take me from my living room, how much did it make me think of stories in my own mind, and how many times could I watch it. Remember Clash of the Titans or Ice Pirates? Pure shit. And I loved them!

Maybe there’s something to be said about broken movies and low swings, because they have holes and those holes are nothing but space for us to seep into them. We become a part of what makes them work, we have to participate. We have to make up the difference.

My friend once asked me to prove to him that Goonies was a good movie (he’d only seen it as an adult.) I told him I couldn’t. It was too late. You had to grow up with it. You had to see yourself in it. You had to squirm between the cracks. You had to wear down its pages like a comic.

Growing up, I never got two comic books in a row, so I never knew how the stories ended not often how they began. I had to imagine it.

We have so many damn options now that we’ve become spoiled. We give up on tv shows after three episodes if it doesn’t meet our standards. Maybe we were better off getting stuck watching what was on. Maybe we were better watching broken films and re-reading comic books. Maybe we were better off getting lost in the energy of something rather than getting caught up on the quality.

Somewhere along the line we all became reviewers instead of enjoyers. And then we turned that on each other. Maybe we all just need to get excited about something shitty or imperfect, not because it’s cool, but because we want it to be and we’re willing to fill in the gaps.

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Time May Not Be the Problem

How We Use Time To Avoid the Truth of What We Value

The question of Time continually rears it’s head. I did two episodes of Creative Minds on Time this season and I know it’s only a scratch or two on a very rough exterior. Time is an obstacle for us all. How do we find enough? How do we manage what we have? Why does it go so fast? But Time isn’t always the issue. The real question is not how do we arrange our time, but rather what do we value?

Do you watch four hours of TV and then tell yourself that you don’t have the time to read? Do you continually flip through Facebook instead of mediating? We all do it. We all value things we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t. It’s a frightening reality.

Time can remain an issue for many of us because facing these truths can be very difficult and uncomfortable. We avoid them because they require us to ask further questions of ourselves.

Most of us know what we “should” be doing, we know that we could manage our time better, and we often know exactly where we are wasting it. But the question we are avoiding is Why? Why do I value Bloons Tower Defense more than my novel?

Because my novel is difficult; because it makes me feel like I’m continually failing; because winning a stupid level on a game feels better; because it’s fun and right now my life is sorely devoid of fun.

Underneath the question of Time is always another question, one without an easy answer that frees us from responsiblity like “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Look there. Dare to look there. What’s underneath your problem with time?

My “Read Later” Queues Are Killing Me

Everytime I see a story I want to read, I bookmark it on Medium. I have lists like this everywhere but I can never seem to get back to zero. As I write this I have 43 articles save on Medium, 32 videos saved on YouTube, 13 podcast epsiodes waiting in Castro, 158 unread books in the Kindle app, and 53 random things stacked up in my Safari Reading list.

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By my estimate I should be able to catch up on these things in 4 years — if I dedicate 4 hours a days it. But of course, that won’t happen. I’ll keep adding to the pile. I’ll keep bargaining with the gods like the bespeckled bookworm in the Twilight Zone begging for more time. I keep saving.

Those number are a continual stress, and we haven’t even touched on my Netflix queue. My anxiety grown every day because the the damn lists are actually growing, not receding.

In time the weight of our promises to ourselves become abuse; continually battering ourselves with the stick of failure.

My “To Read” list on Goodreads is up to 7,126. That’s 70 years of 100 books a year. I’m fourty. I don’t think I’ll be reading a book every three days at 105. My list is longer than my life, and every time I see that number I’m reminded of that. Every time I add another book, I’m stretching further into borrowed time.

It’s weird a intersection of hoarding and FOMO, isn’t it. “I might never see this again, better stuff it in a coffee can.” But what would happen if I went in and deleted eveything right now? Nothing. I’ve done it before. It’s the reason that I’m not allowed to download feed readers on my phone any longer. Nothing is going to change until I change my perceptions.

When we throw something into a “read later” list what we’re actually is borrowing against tomorrow; we’re strapping libraries to the backs of our future selves sot that we can watch a Seinfeld rerun tonight. Tomorrow we will leave the next Sienfeld episode in the queue so that we can watch 20/20 tonight. While we’re at, lets add six movies to our watch later list. Over time it’s no longer about what we watch or read, it’s about what we tell ourselves we’re gonn watch and read someday. We live in someday.

It’s the same problem many of us have with finance. I’ll buy this on credit today and screw my future self. That’s how we live.

We’re continually stealing from next year.

So, how the hell do I turn it around? That’s the question every minimalist and productivity “expert” is out there trying to answer. The truth is I don’t know. Did you really think I would? Those list numbers I shared are current. I don’t have any answers. I’m galloshes deep in the river. I suspect the answer is being present and being grateful, but I also think we I need a good dose of “I don’t give a shit.”

Lounging Away Our Lives

How to use leisure to kill your dreams

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How many articles have you read online that tell yousocial media is worse for us than smoking crack? Or that the 24 hour news cycle is making us reactionary and ignorant as a society? How many decades have people been saying that 6 hours of television every day is just not natural? And it’s not unreasonable when we read these things; we aren’t shocked. In fact, it makes sense. We can feel all of this stuff going on inside of us, yet we continue to batter away, consuming more and more…

I know every night I should be leaving the television off. I know I should toss my phone onto the desk and leave it there. I know I should be reading. I should be enjoying the muted sound of silence. I should be meditating. I should put in a few extra hours of work into my novel. At the very least I should be brainstorming the next episode of my podcast.

So, how do I end up spending most nights? Screwing around with some dumb app on my phone while another epsiode of C.S.I. is on in the background being ignored.

It’s awful. I slow the progress to my goals by at least 70%. And somehow I accept it. I accept that as normal. And you know what? It feels shitty. It feels shitty because I know its easy to change and that I’m capable of so much more. It feel shitty because as creative as I am, I’m still only dipping my toes. After 40 years, I still haven’t learned to dive fully in and swim in that reality. After forty years I’m still scared; scared that one day I’ll wake up a failure and all the people who were scared too will be standing above me waving their 401Ks and laughing.

That’s terrible. That’s a terrible thought. How the hell do we let these things into our brains; these bullshit worms? How do we live with these false perceptions and define the choices of our lives by them?

You know and I know that Facebook, Nexflix and Fortnite aren’t to blame. We only use them like thick blankets to throw over the top of the things that we want to ignore. We’re hiding. I’m hiding. I know the man I want to be, I’m just not ready to follow him. I know how to get to where I want to be, I just have trouble believing in an invisible bridge.

Start Worrying: How to Harness Anxious Thoughts to Better Your Life

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I know, it’s an audacious title; something that probaby promises more than it can deliver. But I’ve discovered something that really works. It’s doesn’t come out of wisdom or research or knowledge. I honestly stumbled upon the idea out of pure luck. It’s simple. It works. And I’ll keep the writing here simple as well.

The basic premise is that we aren’t all mad; that we aren’t all completely out of our minds. I think most of you agree with that. So then the question is why do we worry so damn much? We’re fraying our nerves; our spines, our guts and our stomachs are all eating themselves alive. Why?

Sure, I don’t doubt that the pace of our lives and our media consumption has a lot to do with it. I’ve noticed improvement in my own stress levels from reducing my input. But at the heart of every anxiety; every ball of stress, is a worry. We abuse ourselves with repetitive worries cycling through our brains.

Some doctors give us pills to chill out. Other’s say we need to learn to let go. But I think there’s something more there. I’m not a doctor and I wouldn’t claim to know better than them, but what I do know is that every worry is rooted in something specific.

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There’s always something down at the core of everything over which we starve ourselves or pull out of hair for. And we often take so little time for self contemplation that we are unable to identify what the true situation at hand actually is. Instead we juggle chainsaws, somehow convincing ourselves that by stressing out over something, we are making it better. But worry is not solution. We all know that. In the words of Van Wilder:

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Ok, so let’s get to the meat already. Right? What am I really talking about? Why should we start worrying? And what good can come from that?

Our first problem is that we allow worry to invades our lives. It pops up where and whenever it wants, shitting on whatever it come into contact with. And the only remedy we are offered is to let it go; to ignore it; to push it out. But that doesn’t work very well does it? And if doesn’t work well then we have to wonder if maybe we’re thinking of it all wrong.

What if I told you to go ahead and worry, to go ahead and freak out all that you want? You’d proababy say that I’m nuts or and idiot, but that’s exactly what I’m suggesting you to do. Worry, worry, worry — but only for 30 minutes every day.

I want you to schedule a thirty minute window every day for worrying. I’m not being metaphorical. Put aside thirty minutes of every day and label that as your worry time.

First of all, as crazy as it sounds, there’s something freeing about the idea isn’t there. By allowing it a place in our lives we no longer have to carry the shame, guilt and yes, the worry that we have over the habit of worrying itself.

Second of all, what’s important to know about this thirty minutes is that it is the only time during the day that you are allowed to worry. What this means is that when a worry pops into your head during the rest of the day, rather than fighting it, you reschedule it. If you have to, talk out loud. “Sorry worry, it’s not you’re time. We will talk tonight.” And then write down that worry for reference later and move on.

And that’s it.

Just kidding. That isn’t even the important part. We still have to deal with the real clickbaity part of my title: “Harness Anxious Thoughts to Better Your Life.” So, how do we do that?

Well, that’s where your thirty minutes come in. This is what you actually do during these thirty minutes.

List out every single worry that you can think of that is on your mind — big, small, logical, crazy — all of them. The first day will probably be the longest (but who knows.) You’ll proabably run out of steam pretty fast, but I encourage you to push past this and to really dig. Go until you literally can’t think of any more worries. Find the true limit.

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Why are we writing them down? You guessed it, because we are gonna look at each of them and do some thinking. The first question you are gonna ask as you look at each worry is: “What’s the worst possible thing that can happen?”

I’ll share with you one of my own personal stresses. On day one, I wrote down “I worry about my heart health.” I smoked cigarettes for 18 years, I ate a poor diet, I never exercised and I’m twenty pounds overweight. Though I have no signs of heart disease yet, it’s a real worry. And when my anxiety takes over and throws me into a panic attack, the first thing I think is that I’m having a heart attack. So I guess, as blunt as it is, my worse case scenario is that I actually will die. Damn. That’s not very uplifting or healthy is it? Luckily, this question is only the first of two.

The next question I want you to ask is: “What can I actually do about it?” And this is the hardest step out of everything that I’ve written here. It requires you to really understand what you’re worry is actually telling you. After all that’s the whole point of this article, that we aren’t insane; that the reason we worry is because we are trying to tell ourselves something. A worry is like an alarm. We don’t want to just turn them off. We want to find out what set them off.

In my case, I found four actionable steps. Actionable steps are spefic actions that you can take. Tangible things. For example, I’m worried about my heart, so I need to:

  • Change my diet

  • Exercise

  • Lose weight

  • Go see a cardiologist for a heart check up

Every one of these is something that I can put into action immediately. And that’s our goal here. As best as you can, try to find true actionable steps, things that you can put into a todo app, schedule and complete. This is where you begin to improve your life.

As we allot time to listen to and understand our worries, we begin to make progress. From one worry I was able to see the need to make three changes to improve my health. And the apointment with the cardiologist will give me some understanding of where I actually stand with my heart health. If my heart is healthy then I have information to battle my next panic attack (though hopefully there isn’t a next one), and if it isn’t in tip-top condition then I have more motivation for my diet and exercise changes.

Now to be clear, there may not always be a cut-and-dry action steps from every worry. Sometimes the action step in just acknowledging something and accepting it. “I worry that I will die one day.” Yup. You will. You can’t prevent it, so maybe your action steps are “accept the inevitability of death” & “find joy and happiness in every day.”

But…personally, I wouldn’t even be happy with those steps. I’d want to dig deeper. What scares me about death specifically? How can I come to terms with that? What steps can I take to find joy? and happiness?

Basically what I’m saying here is that the deeper you dig to find specific actions that you can take, the more benefit your worries will bring into your life. It’s all up to you. If you give yourself fully to this practice you will continually surprise yourself. You will discover worries that you weren’t consciously aware of. You will find needs that you weren’t meeting. You will find things you’ve been wanting to do, suddenly getting done. And after time you’ll discover that your worry list gets shorter every day, because worries don’t return unless they still have something to say. If you take your steps then they eventually go away.

From Anxiety To Advice: 8 Ideas

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What makes me expert enough to dole out advice? Nothing. Not a damn thing. I’ve spent a fat chunk of my life fucking up, fucking around and fucking off. Then one day, I got too damn tired of it; my body got too damn tired. It wasn’t a heroic choice to change, I just started having panic attacks. For most people panic attacks are enough to shock them into re-evaluating their life, but me. To wake me up it took having a panic attack on top of extremely high blood pressure while I was suffering from an excruciating infected tooth.

My blood pressure is now regulated by pills and my tooth pain was taken away with a drill, but I was left with the anxiety. Anyone who has had anxiety knows that it is different then stress. Stress is a reaction to being over-stimulated and over-burdened. Anxiety is an all out war in your body for no discernible reason. Anxiety is shortness of breath, electric shocks in your body, chest pain and utterly uncontrollable terror. Anxiety is a hyper-alert state where you can actually hear your blood pumping and it’s pumping fast—too fast. You begin to feel that the only thing holding that imaginary blood clot or heart attack at bay is moving the right way, sitting, standing, pacing, breathing; that the only thing keeping you alive is the sheer power of your will.

Now, everybody’s experience with anxiety is unique, but I’ve yet to meet a person who said it was fun. It’s monstrous and it doesn’t just go away on its own. You have to deal with it. You have to make changes in your lifestyle. You have to evolve. But, this isn’t an article on how to murder anxiety. There are plenty of great instructions on meditation that will help dramatically, but finding relief is an individual journey, just like the anxiety itself. This is an article about dealing with life after experiencing a very tangible, looming fear of death. This is an article about getting things done before they’re throwing dirt on your face. This is even an article about knowing goals and dedicating yourself to them. This is an article about 8 ideas that I have, that I’ve stolen, that are clichéd; 8 things I’m trying.

1. EXERCISE

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This is one that I fought for a long time. I hate doing it. I dread it. It’s just so damn boring, but I do it. I do 30 minutes every morning before I shower or even eat. I avoided exercise for years, and I can tell you that going back to base-line healthy after reaching a certain age is a lot more difficult. You don’t put on muscle nearly as fast, the soreness lasts longer and the fat—well the fat seems to have claws in your bones and just won’t let go.

So here’s the thing, once you start exercising, you don’t need to flaunt it. You don’t need a spandex wardrobe. You need to tweet how far you ran today. Nobody gives a shit. You don’t even need a six pack, just get your heart pumping and sweat.

Someone once told me ‘the more you use your body, the better it works.’ I’ve found that to be true. I have more energy, I’m in a better mood and I’m more productive. For a cantankerous procrastinator like me, that’s a huge improvement. It also turns out that the more you use your body, the better your brain works.

If those aren’t reason enough, then do it for vanity. Do it so that you don’t get fat or flabby or have weird flaps of skin whose origin you can’t place. Do it so you can still have sex later in life. Do so that you can see your genitals. Do it so that you don’t drop dead on the toilet. Do so that you don’t end up looking like some demented cartoon character, dragging a metal cart into McDonald’s for dinner every night.

2. READ

Read every day. Read for at least an hour. Don’t do anything else for that hour. Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ Keep a pen and a piece of paper near you while reading. Every time something occurs to (an idea that the book inspires, the fact that you need milk, a question you have) write it down on that paper and forget it until the hour is up. This allows you to pay attention to the book without forgetting anything.

The most successful people in the world read everyday. It’s not just about knowledge, but the more you stimulate your brain the easier is it get things done. Your focus improves and you’re more equipped to solve problems. It doesn’t matter what you read, but don’t limit yourself to one genre. The more you challenge yourself, the better it is for your brain and the better it is for your self-esteem.

Reading also makes you a better human being, particularly fiction. Fiction puts you in the skin and circumstances of someone other that yourself. It teaches you about different lives and different worlds and different points of view. It kills the self-centered parts of us. Reading teaches empathy. Reading makes you less of a prick.

3. SMASH YOUR SCREEN

Ok, stop crying. You don’t have to really break your phone, TV or computer. You don’t have to give up your Instagram, or Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn or Google+. Just stop looking at them all day. Stop hunching your shoulders and looking down. That’s the posture of defeat. You’re physically sending depressive signals to your mind and your body. If you have to, look at your social media once a day. Don’t check your email more that twice a day. Limit your TV time to an hour or two. Cutting all this out will give you more time; time for things like reading, laughing, screwing and thinking; time for goals.

The more inane shit that you shovel into your head, the more anxiety that you’ll have. That’s a physiological fact. We become junkies for our phones, sucking up endorphins every time we grab them. Is it any wonder that we are all depressed and dissatisfied? Try being present in your life instead of being absent. Keep your phone in your pocket during dinner and talk to the person across the table from you. Skip the news and let other people tell you about it. Don’t just take photos, learn to be in them.

4. SHUN THE WORLD

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My goal is to write and be successful at it. It’s been my goal since I first read Vonnegut & Kerouac in high school. It’s the kind of image that I spent a lot of time cultivating. I found rough, beligerant blueprints in writers like Bukowksi and I made them part of my persona. I drank heavily, smoked even more heavily and I got into arguments about books when I got drunk. I made sure everybody knew I was a writer…but there was just one thing: I wasn’t a writing. I was a barfly who scribbled a few shitty sentences a few times a year. I’d made the image into the goal, but never the writing. I sat around hoping for inspiration to goose me under the table. I spent most of my time drinking, smoking, socializing and eating the worst food possible. It’s no wonder that exercising is such a bitch now.

Of the four, the hardest to stop was the socializing, because well…socializing isn’t bad for you. Not when you know great people. But writing is hard work and getting good at writing requires a lot of goddamn time and effort. It requires reading, writing, editing and quiet contemplation, all of which are mostly solitary exercises and are in direct conflict with a very active social life. I had to learn to say no, which sounds like a simple thing. It’s not. It’s a bitch. I’m still learning it. People get upset. They take it personally and as flattering as that is, you need to be willing to sacrifice if you want to achieve. Maybe what you want doesn’t require solitude, but something in your life will come up against your goals. You’ve got to be willing to kill it. You got to be willing to slay the dragon. You got to be will to leave the world and freeze in an ice cave. You’ve got to be willing to shun the world.

5. SHUT-UP

Learn to talk less. Learn to listen. Learn to accept that you aren’t the center of the universe. I suck at this one. I love talking. I have an opinion on everything. I’ve actually been described that way. I interrupt. I just sit waiting to talk; waiting to topple down the little tower of words you just built. That all just makes me an asshole. Talking and conversing are two different things. Conversation requires more that just you. Conversation requires exchange. So, zip it and try to understand what the other person is saying. You don’t need to believe it but try at least to get what their words mean.

We spend too much time deluding ourselves into thinking of conversation as things that you win. We spend too much time fearing that other people’s opinions will infect us. Don’t get stuck in the cycle of always trying to prove people wrong or top their stories. Listen, particularly to people you disagree with, because it’s important to humble yourself.

The people who speak less are heard more when they do speak. The people who speak less aways seem to know more about their thoughts than the rest of us know about our own. The people who speak less have calmer minds, smile more and they probably get more dinner invitations and hand jobs than the rest of us.

6. DON’T LIE. DON’T APOLOGIZE

Try being honest. Just try it. I dare you. Skip the big lies. Skip the small lies. Skip the itty-bitty white lies. Accept who you are and how you feel and don’t waste time hiding it. Just say it. I’m not advocating radical, brutal honesty because that just makes people into a douchebags who swing the truth through the air like big, fake cocks. Truth can be eloquent. Truth can be sensitive. And if there’s no way to say something true without being cruel then don’t say anything. Go back to idea number five and just shut-up.

We spend too much of our lives lying to ‘spare people’s feelings’, but in reality we’re just being cowards. When we tell people the truth, we open up communication. We open up the possibility for a conversation. Rather that being vulnerable, we chose to lie, because it’s quicker and easier.

On the other side, don’t apologize unless you’re truly sorry. We apologize for little shit everyday. We apologize for things that don’t have anything to do with us. We throw out sorry’s for no damn reason everywhere we go. Our lawns are littered with dried, up apologies. We rarely even feel true regret because we don’t analyze our actions. We simple throw out an “I’m sorry” and move on. What could be a real conversation becomes a practiced ritual that means nothing. We know that ‘I’m sorry’ will induce an ‘It’s ok,’ and then we wash our hands. Only say you’re sorry when you truly feel it, and express it with emotive words. The rest of the time, leave out the apology…or better yet don’t do shit that you need to apologize for.

7. START A SHIT LIST

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Everybody should have two lists: a list of people who support you and a list of people who don’t. This isn’t to be mean or vengeful. This is simply to conserve energy. We only have so much brain juice and we can only maintain so many relationships before the other ones break down from neglect. It’s even been suggested by studies that empathy is not an inexhaustible resource and that it runs dry. So don’t waste time on ingrates and users.

Is someone always asking you favors but never extending any to you? Is there somebody that you text or call, that never replies? Well, fuck em. Chuck em. It’s important to know upon whom to expend your precious energy. Take the energy that you’re wasting on self-centered dickheads and focus into supporting those who have supported you. Foster stronger, more rewarding relationships with people who reciprocate. They’re your real friends and they deserve it.

8. TAKE A RISK

Take a risk on love. Take a risk on business. Take a risk by writing a blog on life advice. Expose yourself to failure and criticism. There’s nothing specific to learn here, except that you will survive. You can’t live your life in fear because fear chains you. There’s no such thing as security, so take chances. Don’t be afraid of anything and learn to laugh when you fall on your ass.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
— Samuel Beckett